The traits that make Donny Edwards blend in have also allowed him to stand out in his career as an impersonator.
After he won the gene lottery with the similar wavy hair, high cheekbones and tan skin tone as Elvis Presley, fans of “The King” can’t stop falling in love with Edwards.
“I kind of got that as a kid,” the 43-year-old performer said in his baritone voice. “I got used to it after hearing about our resemblance from aunts and uncles.”
Edwards will return to Victoria to perform “An Authentic Tribute to Elvis” on March 24 at the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.
He has performed in tribute shows professionally for 15 years since he was 28 years old. But before he fit himself into tight white pants and gelled up his hair as a ’50s Elvis impersonator, Edwards could be spotted throughout the Crossroads.
Edwards, who was born in Des Moines, Iowa, lived in Port Lavaca in 1994 and worked at Formosa as an apprentice for two to three years.
“I came here for work,” he said. “I remember driving to Victoria on my weekends.”
Through most of his 20s, people would confuse Edwards for a performer and ask if they could take a picture with him. In 2002, he tried out for his first “Elvis contest” at the Lake Theatre in Lake Jackson.
“I signed up. I had to do two songs, so I went with 50s Elvis,” he said. “I kept winning and got hired pretty quick. I performed as ’50s Elvis at a casino in Oregon.”
Edwards later auditioned at the Elvis-a-Rama Museum, a place owned by a man who collected Elvis memorabilia. The performer said he was stopped halfway through his first audition song and was immediately hired.
Edwards performed at the museum for about three years, while he performed at other casinos in Las Vegas. He said it was a great place to hone his skills.
“It kind of takes you by a storm, and you learn as you go,” Edwards said. “I learned more about his movements on stage and his voice and kept developing it.”
His career took off after he performed in the “Legends in Concert” show in Las Vegas in 2005.
Edwards has performed throughout the country and in other countries such as Chile, Canada and Japan.
He has met DJ Fontana, who was a drummer for Elvis for about 14 years; George Klien, who was Elvis’ lifelong friend; and Mark James, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter who wrote Elvis’ last No. 1 hit “Suspicious Minds.”
Edwards said he was working with James at a venue when he said, “I have to tell you, you are the only guy that when I close my eyes, I can hear Elvis. It’s so natural for you.”
“Everything I do, I like to do it in a way that brings honor to Elvis. I make it accurate and authentic,” Edwards said. “I try to replicate what Elvis did. That’s what I fell in love with, and that’s what the fans want to see.”
People go to Elvis tribute performances because they like to think of a different time, he said.
“My show is considered one of the most authentic shows out there,” he said. “It may not be the actual Elvis on stage, but when they see the high energy, it will be the closest they can get to Elvis.”