by Margaret Chrystall
NO surprise that when it comes to his career, Ben Portsmouth – the Brit who grabbed the 2012 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Act title in America – laughs: "I’m still trying to do it my way!"
The song My Way – one of Elvis’s biggest hits – also happens to be one of Berkshire boy Ben’s favourites.
With an ever-changing setlist that always also includes the big hits, Ben, his 15-piece Taking Care Of Elvis band are back in Inverness on Saturday also shining a spotlight on the big moments of Elvis’s career.
With a tour roster that takes Ben from Brazil, the UK and on to Las Vegas in July, he’s also taking care of business as far as keeping the Elvis memory alive.
His greatest sacrifice for his art is what he calls "the 24/7" task of dying his hair black.
But with the crazy 168-date touring schedule Elvis was put through in 1973 building the pressure that started to take its toll, Ben knows enough about his childhood idol than to make the same mistakes.
He has the ability to switch off and become himself again as soon as he is offstage and the Elvis costumes are back on the rail.
Ben says: "You have to rest, but I’m lucky. As soon as I walk off that stage I can be Ben again. Whereas, obviously Elvis was still Elvis – he was stuffed in that sense!
"I like to get down the gym and keep fit, but don’t get me wrong, I like a few vodkas or a few beers here and there.
"It depends on the person, I suppose, but I like to keep in shape as best I can – and I try to get early nights.
"In the 70s, Elvis would probably come on and do an hour and a half at most and then walk off.
"We get to the place, do a sound check, then the show goes through all the eras and you are running off the stage and changing – changing your voice too as Elvis grows older – and it’s quite a physical thing."
Ben hasn’t chosen to go down the voice coach route – his natural talents include a four-octave range and perfect pitch.
Ben laughs: "The only thing I’ve done is sing in the choir as a kid, really. I just get away with it!"
See the show and you can see how modest Ben is being when you witness the transformation he makes from the voice of young Elvis to the richer, deeper tones of the older man.
Ben comments: "When he started out Elvis was 19 years old and had that voice – by the time he got to 1975, he was heavier and it had completely changed, really.
"So I just adapt mine as best I can, but the ’70s is my thing, my favourite time in his music."
In the past, Ben has sketched in his own career: "I always listened to Elvis at home and played my guitar along to the songs as a kid, learning the chords etc.
"I started out playing session guitar for people in the music biz, but thought ‘I prefer singing Elvis’, so that’s what I’ve done.
"I’m sure my careers woman would think it different to the norm, but hey, who earns more money now!"
When you ask Ben how he likes to spend his time when not touring, he jokes: "I’m quite similar to Elvis in a way, he was just a country boy who liked cars, women and food – and I’m pretty much the same.
"I like everyday cars, German cars. I have a BMW and Elvis had a BMW when he was in the service in Germany.
"I also like American 70s muscle cars, and when I’m in America, there might be the odd person who has one of them and, if I’m lucky, I get to give it a spin. It’s good fun."
Ben makes it clear he still loves Elvis and his music.
When he talks about the big fanbase Elvis has in Latin America, Asia and India through the generation that saw the movies passing their love down to their kids, Ben adds: "Elvis is great, they obviously know a good thing!"
And there is no shortage of songs Elvis recorded in genres from rock to gospel to country to blues to choose that Ben can rotate into the set alongside the classics.
Ben’s favourite number to sing at the moment is the same as last time.
"American Trilogy, it sums up the whole Elvis phenomenon.
"He probably recorded between 700 and 800 songs – there are ones you have to do like Trilogy and Suspicious Minds.
"But his repertoire is vast – and all the different styles – so I’m lucky.
"Well done, Elvis!
"And he has a nice version of My Way ..."
The King Is Back with Ben Portsmouth is now a sell-out at Eden Court on Saturday, February 13.