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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Sunday, Oct. 26, 2014

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Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison are teaming up (kind of) for a tribute show at The Pabst Theater on Aug. 16.
Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison are teaming up (kind of) for a tribute show at The Pabst Theater on Aug. 16.

Rock legends Elvis and Orbison come together for tribute show

Two of the seminal singers in the world of rock and roll were Elvis Presley and Roy Orbison -- contemporaries who never appeared on stage together.

One was full of sex appeal while the other was mysterious, hidden behind dark glasses. One danced and was frenetic while the other stood stock still, letting his voice warm the room. One sang with a pure rock and roll drive while the other had a new operatic sound that wrapped an audience in a web of breathless admiration.

The two singers are coming to Milwaukee as impersonators Danny J and John Van Thiel stage "Elvis and Orbison: The Voices of Rock" at The Pabst Theater on Aug. 16.

"We start the show with the music people were listening to at that time," said Danny J, who plays Orbison. "It was Patti Page and Tennessee Ernie Ford and Mitch Miller. Then I come out and Orbison takes the stage. I start with ‘Come a Little Bit Closer,’ and we are off and running."

Eventually, Van Thiel’s first song is "King Creole," and the two take turns delivering hit after hit – not hard considering the early rockers' legendary catalogues.

Danny J and Van Thiel spent years with the late Mark Shurilla and his "Greatest Hits Tribute," which leaned heavily on Buddy Holly.

"Fans told us over and over that they wanted to hear more Elvis, more Danny J, so we crafted a show to give it to them," Van Thiel said.

Danny J spearheaded the effort to organize the group and assembled a 12-piece group – The Legendaires Show Band – that includes a full horn section and backup singers.

"We have a 12-piece band and backup singers who are some of the best musicians in the area," Danny J said. "These guys are real pros. They all read charts, and they sound great."

"The Legendaires features some of the finest musicians and vocalists from the Chicago and Wisconsin areas," Van Thiel said. "It’s an honor to have this kind of talent backing us. John and I are really looking forward to performing at The Pabst Theater."

Doing a tribute is a dangerous task with many singers failing to capture the music of the guy being impersonated. Orbison had at least a three octave range, and his ability to climb high without singing falsetto was one of his amazing strengths. However, Danny J said he doesn’t have any troubling matching Orbison, note for note.

"I’ve never taken a voice lesson," Danny J said. "This is all natural. I started doing a version of 'Cara Mia' by Jay and the Americans, and people just went crazy when they heard it."

You can see Danny J in action here and Van Thiel is here. For more information about tickets and the show, visit the Pabst's website.

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