The year 2014 was historic for local Elvis fans and tribute artistes (ETAs), also known as the King’s Men.
That was the twelfth year of the reinvigoration of the King of Rock n Roll’s legacy and zeal in Sarawak, after our landmark move to mark his 23rd death anniversary starting from 2002 (Aug 16), the very year that I returned from the neighbouring sultanate, after a seven-year stint and lots of ‘Elvising’ around.
After more than a decade of trying and experimenting, our group finally managed to get our club registered with the Registrar of Societies (ROS). That was in May 2014.
It was none other than the late Ges Barundang, popularly known as Elges Presley who made it possible to register a club as an umbrella for fans and impressionists that we agreed to name it as Elvis Presley Fan Club of Sarawak (EPFCS).
Initially the entity was led by two-time Elvis Presley of Sarawak titleholder Wilfred Vincent Ragam with Ges as honorary secretary and yours truly as treasurer. We appointed Tan Sri William Mawan Ikom as advisor, handing over his appointment letter during a courtesy call at his office shortly after the club registration that year.
With the registration, we managed to keep ourselves abreast with each other and enjoyed easier and wider contacts, especially via the WhatsApp group. There were various shows done together both in Kuching, other parts of Sarawak, in Kota Kinabalu as well in Kuala Lumpur, thereby making our EPFCS as a great bonding unit among club members, especially the regular ETAs.
In the past, it was also through this good networking that we also learnt speedily good and bad news, the worst being the demises of our members, with Elges being the latest to go as written in my column last week. Ironically, he was the one forming the WhatsApp group apart from being instrumental in getting our club registered as aforesaid — we really miss you my brother (I weep as I write).
This year alone, three ETAs have gone. The other two were Borneo Games star and pole vault record holder Albert Blassan who died aged 74 on July 31 while Elvis Presley of Sarawak (1965) titleholder Eskandar Eyaw left the building in April, aged 76.
Albert, also known as Big Al, had a wonderful footwork and excelled in rendering EP hits such as Blue Suede Shoes and Way Down while Eskandar with his soft melodious voice crooned well the likes of Tender Feelings and Wonder of You. Elges’ favourites were G.I. Blues and You Don’t Have To Say You Love Me.
The most sensational loss was prior to the establishment of EPFCS, namely in January 2010 when EP lookalike Reynolds Gregory @ Elrey passed on — collapsed actually — while performing at a leading hotel here in Kuching (I was informed about it while having a poker session with my cousin Datuk Amar Endawie Enchana (now deceased) and four others).
When writing for a local daily then, I titled the article “Elrey Elvis to the very last”, due to him dying in an EP outfit, beating the King himself. Just a week earlier we were performing together in The Sapphire Executive Lounge & Pub, at Ban Hock Road marking Elvis 75th birthday anniversary on Jan 8.
During the funerary mass at All Saints Church in Tabuan Dayak, all the local ETAs (including non-Christians, a testament that EP songs transcend faiths) were united in our tribute by singing How Great Thou Art, accompanied by talented James Alexander Ritchie on piano. Elrey’s favourites were Sentimental Me and Baby I Don’t Care.
Miri Elvis Alex Ting was the next to go. I last met him in Kuching in 2012 when Dayak artistes rehearsed for our statewide AMD (Anugerah Muzik Dayak) roadshow in Boulevard Complex. He died a year later.
During our show together in 2009 at a joint in Kuching he did well EP number Polk Salad Annie and the sole local ETA to have belted the song on stage.
Our Sibu counterpart John Sia became a life member of EPFCS. He died aged 62 in 2016 — in the arms of his loving wife. John used to do Johnny B Goode and Never Been To Spain.
In 2020, our senior colleague and accomplished guitarist Jimmy Adit @ Eljim’s untimely demise really shocked the journalism and music fraternities and to some extent, a good number of politicians.
During some stage shows with him, Eljim excelled in doing his favourites Just Tell Her Jim Say Hello and Hound Dog.
Despite the losses, I believe our club will go on and survive, albeit with a new leadership.