Three top Florida tribute artists talk about life in blue suede shoes
By Ben Crandell South Florida Sun-Sentinel • Jan 06, 2023
Fifty years after Elvis Presley’s last star turn, Fort Lauderdale will be gripped by his memory this weekend, with three days of music, a film screening, a gospel brunch, and more.
Why is the King still a thing — even for people who weren’t alive when he was alive?
The centerpiece of Elvis Weekend in Fort Lauderdale is “All Shook Up — A Tribute to Elvis,” taking place Friday and Saturday at Las Olas Oceanside Park. The free celebration of Presley’s 88th birthday comes just a week short of the 50th anniversary of his iconic “Aloha From Hawaii” TV special, when the singer, all slim and sexy swagger, still had it. He died just four years later.
Kicking off “All Shook Up” on Friday will be a 7 p.m. concert by Cote Deonath, an internationally touring 25-year-old Ocala native who recently finished second in the 2022 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, the so-called Super Bowl of Elvis Tributes organized by Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The celebration will continue at the LOOP on Saturday, beginning at 11:30 a.m. with the How Great Thou Art Gospel Brunch, featuring a performance by the New Mount Olive Baptist Church Choir. Matt Stone performs as Elvis from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m., followed by a set of Presley’s country and R&B songs from Fort Lauderdale singer-guitarist Joel DaSilva and friends at 4 p.m., and a screening of “Viva Las Vegas” from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Admission to “All Shook Up” events is free. For information on reserved table seating and brunch accommodations, visit TheLoopFLB.com.
What does it take to walk in another man’s blue suede shoes?
What’s the difference between an “impersonator” and “a tribute artist”?
What’s the budget for those jumpsuits? Is that their real hair?
Three Kings performing in Fort Lauderdale this weekend, spoke with us about being Elvis. (Conversations edited for length and clarity.)
Cote Deonath: A boy from nowhere
The son of a Trinidadian father and French-Canadian mother, schooled in the ways of Elvis by his maternal grandmother as a toddler, 25-year-old Ocala native Cote Deonath (pronounced CO-tee DAY-o-nath) has finished in the Top 5 at Graceland’s Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest five years running. Humble and polite, he spends his non-Elvis time in Dunnellon (population less than 2,000), west of Ocala near the Withlacoochee River. “Just a boy from nowhere,” Deonath says. True to his regular-guy nature, when Deonath met Priscilla Presley, he spent most of the time talking about their mutual affection for her movie “The Naked Gun.” He admits he’s addicted to his jumpsuits, which were made by the same guy in Indiana that designed those worn by Elvis. Deonath’s critically important hair is his own and he only lets one person touch it: “A local lady by the name of Christina. She’s retired, but she’s not retired for me. I don’t let anybody else touch my hair,” he says, laughing.
Matt Stone: Thanks, John Stamos
Raised in a Wellington home with a father and grandfather who revered Led Zeppelin, Matt Stone caught the Elvis bug at age 13 when he saw John Stamos perform “Jailhouse Rock” on an episode of “Full House.” A natural entertainer, Stone soon began his professional Elvis career at 14, playing South Florida nursing homes for $100 a pop. Now 19, Stone made the Top 10 with Cote Deonath in the 2022 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis and expects 2023 to be his most successful year. “Last January, I played my first real theater, and it was 38 seats. Now, on a daily basis, I’m talking to theaters with, you know, 500 seats,” says Stone, who recently moved with his wife to Hobe Sound. His hair is real, and he’s learned how to cut and style it himself. He has multiple pairs of false sideburns to match each Elvis era.
Read the complete interviews with Cote Doenath and Matt Stone at Sun-Sentinel.com