13-year-old Elvis plans career of paying tribute to ‘King’
Howell, Mich. — Bryson Vines knows more about Elvis Presley than fans much older than him.
At 13 years old, Bryson already has been performing as an Elvis tribute artist for several years, the Livingston Daily Press & Argus reports.
When he is not attending eighth grade at Charyl Stockwell Academy, he spends his time learning about Elvis’ life, practicing his songs and perfecting his dance moves and signature lip curl.
He performs as Elvis about 20 times a year at festivals, competitions and local events.
“I definitely want to make a career out of it,” Bryson said.
While he is still too young to grow his own muttonchop sideburns, he wears his hair to look like Elvis. He has a collection of replica jewelry and has replicas of two Gibson guitars Elvis played that he uses for props.
His parents, who live in Howell, have bought him several professionally made Elvis jumpsuits covered in rhinestones. They guess there have been 15 different jumpsuits. He has outgrown most of them.
“The first time I was ever exposed to Elvis I was 4 and my mom played the movie Viva Las Vegas,” Bryson said.
When he was 7, his mom, Karen Vines, got a record player and a stack of Elvis albums from her father’s house.
Bryson said he was drawn to Elvis’ costumes, charisma and vocal skills. He set out to learn everything he could about the musician.
“I’m really into learning about his whole career and how he was outside the stage and also revolving around how he died, that’s interesting as well,” he said. “I like to focus in on how he was as a person and not just as a performer.”
His first Elvis outfit was a kid’s Halloween costume. His grandma and mom also made him some suits when he was little.
He started wearing them every day.
“When he was little he was really into the arts,” his dad, Robert Vines, said. “He loved the Wizard of Oz and dressed up as Scarecrow. We went to live plays. He loved the performing arts.”
Robert said studying Elvis’ life and music has been a “non-stop hobby” for Bryson.
The family invested in his burgeoning Elvis career, purchasing sound equipment, costumes and other gear.
“He kind of is an old soul, and we’re older parents, too,” Robert Vines said. “Because of this, we get to travel along. He started doing local stuff and then we found a lot of festivals.”
When Bryson was 8, his parents took him to an Elvis tribute show in Owosso. The Elvis tribute artist pulled him up on stage. He went dressed like Elvis. He knew every song.
“He got the bug after he was on stage and told me I want you to find more Elvis shows,” Karen Vines said.
They went to Mason-based Elvis tribute artist Matt King’s shows and he took Bryson under his wing as an Elvis mentee.
Bryson’s favorite festival is The Elvis FANtasy Fest, held in Portage, Indiana, each year, where he has performed and competed against other Elvis tribute artists. He has also been to Michigan Elvis Fest and others.
He said there are other teenage Elvis tribute artists out there, who he has gotten to hang out with at events. Some festivals have youth competitions.
In 2019, he won a youth division competition at “Images of the King,” an event held in Memphis, Tennessee, during Elvis Week.
He recently performed as Elvis at Howell’s Fantasy of Lights in November.
“I like the ballads the most, like ‘I’m Leavin’,” and more upbeat tempo songs like ‘Burning Love,‘” Bryson said. “My least favorite to perform is ‘Suspicious Minds’ because Elvis got sick of it and it gets overplayed.”
He said he likes a lot of Elvis’ songs from the 1970s, when he was performing in Las Vegas.
He celebrates his own birthdays by hosting and performing Elvis tribute charity events. He started doing the birthday bashes when he turned 9, raising about $900 for kids with cancer at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital with a fundraiser held at the Historic Howell Theater.
The Lovis Foundation is the family’s primary charity. The foundation honors Logan Brinson, a young man with disabilities who died at 19. Brinson was a huge Elvis fan who helped organize charity shows, according to the foundation’s website. Bryson’s 2019 birthday bash raised $1,600 for the foundation.
While Elvis had stage fright, Bryson said he is comfortable being on stage in front of large crowds.
“It gives you an adrenaline rush. I really like going on stage,” he said. “I just like doing what I do and I feed off the crowd.”
Looking toward the future, he said he wants to get into producing Elvis tribute shows.
“I don’t listen to a whole lot that isn’t Elvis,” Bryson said. “I get called Elvis at school. That’s how a lot of kids know me.”