Is Alvin native the next best thing to Elvis?

August 2, 2018

Alvin native and Las Vegas musician Jack Sullivan won’t quite be himself when he returns to perform in his hometown.

He’s an Elvis impersonator who will bring his act, complete with a seven-piece band, to Alvin Community College on Aug. 9 for a sold-out show that will end the 2018 Alvin Live Summer Concert Series.

A onetime ACC student, Sullivan portrays “Vegas Elvis,” decked out in a bedazzled jumpsuit and crooning classics such as “Suspicious Minds” (the most-requested song from his show) and “Kentucky Rain” (the impersonator’s favorite tune).

The former drum major at Alvin High School, whose parents Jack and Clarette, still live in Alvin, said, “It was Mama” who inspired his interest in Elvis Presley.

“Elvis was her favorite — the way he looked, the way he spoke, everything about him,” said Sullivan. “Dad gave me Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra and George Jones.”

After graduating from Alvin High, Sullivan briefly attended ACC before he enrolled at Texas A&M University, where he performed as a singing cadet while earning a bachelor’s degree in recreation and parks.

His Aggie buddies always relied on Sullivan to liven up events, whether it was by doing his impression of Elvis, Fred Flintstone or Bluto, the John Belushi character from the movie “Animal House.”

When his best friend from A&M got a divorce and moved to Vegas, Sullivan followed on a whim.

“I kind of panicked at first,” he said. “I realized, ‘I don’t have an agent. I don’t have face shots. A guy’s got to work.’”

However, on his second day in town, Sullivan’s friend invited an agent’s girlfriend to listen to Sullivan’s singing.

“On my third day in Vegas, I was hired,” he said.

That began a two-year succession of gigs in which Sullivan performed with a variety of entertainers ranging from jugglers to musicians.

“It was a lot of fun, playing on The Strip,” he said. “I would probably still be doing that, but I decided I needed health benefits” that come with a steady job.

A friend took Sullivan’s application to Southwest Airlines, which was opening a hub in Las Vegas.

“A hundred thousand people apply for very few positions; so my friend told me that if they ever call me to say yes immediately,” Sullivan said. “I was doing a show at the Aladdin. They called on a Wednesday and asked if I could be in Dallas on Friday morning. I said, ‘Sure!’”

He showed up at the airlines’ home office, wearing “a pressed shirt, jeans and boots, my hair slicked back and big porkchop sideburns,” he said. “On my application, I only put ‘working in entertainment.’ They asked me, ‘Are you an Elvis impersonator?’”

Three days later, Sullivan was in a training class to become a flight attendant.

“They can teach us the job, but they can’t teach us personality,” he said. “Sometimes, they actually have me singing on planes.”

‘Catty’ fellow Elvis impersonators

In addition, Sullivan performs at Las Vegas charity events, music festivals and other shows, but he isn’t good buddies with fellow Elvis impersonators.

“I came out here thinking it would be like a fraternity, but they’re a bit catty,” he said. “I met one guy who would never get out of character. I tend to believe the audience knows I’m not really Elvis. I share a lot of facts from people I’ve met who knew Elvis in Vegas. I think it’s a good tribute show.”

The lifelong bachelor said, “That’s why I’m so happy. I’m the fun uncle.”

The Summer Concert Series is sponsored by the ACC Foundation. Funds raised from Alvin Live performances are used for ACC broadcast communications student training and scholarships.

“We get to combine great musical entertainment in a fundraising environment that helps a lot of students here at the college,” said Bill Lewis, chair of the school’s communications department.

Since 2011, the ACC Live series has used the studio setting for its productions on 89.7 FM and KACC-TV, Cable Access Channel 16. The studio can seat 65 guests. When it’s not used for public and private events, ACC students work in K-219 to gain experience in television and radio broadcasting.

The concert series provides fans with an opportunity to experience music in an intimate setting. Sullivan’s show sold out two days after ticket sales began.

“If people stick around long enough,” Sullivan said, he will perform the stirring trilogy of songs that traditionally closed Presley’s live shows.

After the concert, fans will have the opportunity to take pictures and obtain autographs.

For further information on the concert series, call 281-756-3600 or visit www.alvincollege.edu.

Don Maines is a freelance writer who can be reached at donmaines@att.net.