Lougheed enjoying second act as Elvis artist

Bob Lougheed will perform as Elvis Presley Wednesday night at the Kent County Public Library for a free show at 6:30 p.m. It will mark Mr. Presley’s birthday and the 10-year anniversary of Mr. Lougheed working as an Elvis tribute artist. (Submitted photo)

DOVER — These days, every day is a blessing for Bob Lougheed.

Some days it’s at home on Long Neck.

Some days it’s relishing the role as a proud first-time grandfather with grandson Kylen Michael, born this past July.

And sometimes it’s on the road solo or with the Memphis Mafia — the band of professional musicians that backs Mr. Lougheed’s popular Elvis tribute act.

A longshot jackpot winner more than 10 years over pancreatic cancer – one of the deadliest forms – Mr. Lougheed is making the most of a second chance in life.

“I was told I had like a 1 to 2 percent chance to beat it,” said Mr. Lougheed. “I was 47 years old. And yeah, it shook my world no doubt. My daughters were both in college. It was a very difficult couple of years.”

A self-proclaimed Elvis Presley super-fan from way back, Mr. Lougheed and his alter ego take the stage in tribute to the King of Rock & Roll. Whether it’s by himself or with band members, in one of his Elvis-replica jumpsuits he performs at venues large and small, in Delaware and beyond its border — even as far off as the Bahamas.

He will celebrate his idol’s birthday on Wednesday with a free show at the Kent County Public Library in Dover.

Mr. Lougheed, who celebrated his own 59th birthday Oct. 3, donates a great deal of time performing for the benefit of cancer victims, cancer research organizations and fundraising efforts for charities and non-profit organizations that benefit the community.

He has donated his time to Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, where he had the Whipple surgery procedure that became a lifesaver.

“I’ve done a few television commercials, radio spots, and social media spots for my – and I’ll call it my alma mater, which is Fox Chase Cancer Center – because I feel that is where I graduated from,” he said.

‘New lease on life’

A native of Claymont, Mr. Lougheed relocated to coastal Delaware in late 2009.

“When I moved to the beach, I kind of regrouped and got a new lease on life,” said Mr. Lougheed.

Until January of 2010, Bob Lougheed was a guy who occasionally sang in a bar, had fun with some of the world’s most legendary songs and simply enjoyed his newfound lease on life.

Mr. Lougheed, of Long Neck, sings a song for Joyce Klley of Dagsboro during an event at American Legion Post 28 in Millsboro.

“I did a high school talent show back in 1977,” he said. “All of my friends knew I was an Elvis nut and enjoyed the music, but I enjoy a lot of different music. I didn’t do this professionally. I didn’t go out karaoke-ing. I didn’t go out and do Elvis shows.”

He’d sing for friends and family but never pursued it professionally.

Then, one night, someone heard him, and asked him to perform for someone special.

So, on Jan. 8, 2010, the 10-year anniversary of which will be Wednesday, Mr. Lougheed, armed with nothing more than a CD player and a rented costume, performed for at a rehabilitation center in Millsboro for a lady celebrating her 90th birthday.

The rest, as they say, is history.

“Then, all of this happened. It just happened only by accident,” said Mr. Lougheed. “And it has taken us places I thought we’d never be. We’ve been lucky enough to go to Nassau Bahamas, done shows at Sands Casino with 3,500 people with Real Diamond – the No. 1 Neal Diamond artist in the world and his band. My band and I have traveled to lots of different places. We’ve been to Branson, Missouri; Chicago; many other places. And all along the way we have met so many real cool people with great stories — about life and their experience with cancer.”

His performance has earned Mr. Lougheed multiple awards as an Elvis tribute artist.

Prior to his bout with pancreatic cancer, Mr. Lougheed was a commission salesperson in the wholesale tile industry with Arley Wholesale Inc., a company based in Scranton, Pennsylvania. Times were tough during the recession around 2007.

“We were in the midst of an economic downturn. There was nothing new being built. There were no redos. Even the boxes – the Home Depots and Lowe’s – nobody was selling tile because nobody had money,” said Mr. Lougheed. “As the commission salesperson, one of 37, it was not a good time. But the company took care of me. They took care of me, and they stood by me. Then I moved on from there, moved to the beach and just kind of took life in a different direction.”

That direction is as an Elvis tribute artist. It helps pay the bills.

“This is how I make my living – as Elvis,” said Mr. Lougheed.

He notes his girlfriend, Missy Cetola, says laughingly, “‘Are you ever going to get a real job?’ because she has a real job and she works hard. This is my income, but I have never ever looked at it as a job. The day it becomes a job I’ll find something else to do.”

But Mr. Lougheed has no plans to ease off the gas pedal and slow down.

“I get my breaks,” he said. “People say all of the time, ‘You need to slow down. You need to take a break.’ And I say, ‘You know what? I’ll get my break when I get to heaven.’ Right now, I started this late in life, so I am just catching up.”

It won’t bother Bob Lougheed if you call him an Elvis impersonator or an Elvis tribute act.

“People ask me that all of the time. And I joke around with them, ‘It doesn’t matter what you call me, as long as you call me,’” he said. “I think a lot of the guys I have met they do get a little offended by the ‘Elvis impersonator’ … but it’s all good.”

Memphis Mafia

His Memphis Mafia has a repertoire of 12 to 14 people.

“We have two main drummers, two main guitars, two main keyboards, a bass player, two or three girls doing backup. For the most part we have our core five,” said Mr. Lougheed. “I’m not a musician. I’m coming into this business late in my life. And I have great people round me.”

Large-venue shows will often feature seven to nine musicians, he said.

“What is really nice about that is we can fill any venue and be able to literally to pick from or to see who is available. They are all professional musicians and they play with other bands, and several have their own bands,” said Mr. Lougheed. “To no avail I say I am the luckiest guy in the world, because we don’t rehearse. And never have. We’ve been together six years we have never ever rehearsed. That is how good these guys and ladies are. They are all great musicians. And they are all Elvis fans, too, so they know the music.”

“No matter which direction we go in, they have got my back,” said Mr. Lougheed. “It’s something I never have worry about when I am on stage.”

Over time, performances have evolved with different twists.

“We’ve changed things around a little bit. We’re doing 50s stuff now. In my solo, I do a lot of 50s and movie songs that we wouldn’t normally do with the Memphis Mafia,” said Mr. Lougheed.

Mr. Lougheed and the Memphis Mafia’s popularity has earned them bookings for weddings and other large events. The performers are mindful of the different music genres and that fact that not everyone is a huge Elvis Presley fan.

“Now, we’re starting to incorporate. We throw in a couple sets of non-Elvis, like the Beatles, Stray Cats, the Monkees, some Springsteen, some (Rolling) Stones just to keep the audience engaged and it has really worked out,” he said. “You want to engage the younger crowd. Then we follow up with some Elvis tunes.”

He also tries to incorporate Elvis’ keen knack of moving from song to song in mid-song.

“Elvis was notorious for jumping from one song to another in the middle of a song. And again, he had great musicians around him. Elvis was the king of timing,” said Mr. Lougheed.

Of all of Elvis Presley’s songs, Mr. Lougheed’s favorite is “I’ll Remember You” – for sentimental reasons.

“It was one of my mother’s favorite songs,” said Mr. Lougheed. “Now, if you could nail an Elvis tribute artist down to one, two or three songs, they’d almost be lying to you because there are so many songs at different times that mean so much at that time. But “I’ll Remember You” is probably near and dear, for family reasons.”

Wednesday’s free show starts at 6:30 p.m. at Kent County Public Library, 497 S. Red Haven Lane in Dover.