His ticket to performing in Calhoun began with an introduction to Donald and Joyce Hopper at a Fairmount benefit less than a year ago. The couple has since become close friends with Burgess, who deeply appreciates their friendship and kindness.
“They are the kind of people I want to be around. They’ve helped me so much and we will always be dear friends,” he said.
Donald Hopper smiled as he told the story of the introduction between himself and Burgess.
“My wife and I were at the benefit and we spotted Burgess, and I whispered to her that he’d make a good Elvis,” he said. “Shortly after, I was told that Burgess was indeed performing later at the event. I’m a big Elvis fan, so we stayed to watch his performance, and afterwards I got to talk to him.”
Burgess quickly asked Hopper what he thought of the show, and Hopper had only encouraging words for him.
“I then brought up the city of Calhoun and asked if he had ever performed there. He denied, but said he was interested,” Hopper said, “I then began to pull some strings for him.”
Since then, Hopper has become Burgess’ No. 1 fan, and plans to help his on his way to success.
“Greg’s got what it takes,” Hopper said. “He can keep going.”
Burgess’ road to Elvis reenactments began after numerous people told him he had similar features to the superstar. He then began listening to Elvis’ songs, downloading the lyrics and singing the music.
His first performance earned him more than 90 audience members in Cherokee County, and he was shocked at the number.
“There are this many people and I’m just getting started? Wow,” he recalls thinking.
He then decided to continue with the project.
Since then, Burgess has performed at community clubs, churches, birthday parties, a car show and nursing homes. Just this year, he has performed on six occasions and there are more to come.
In the beginning of June, Burgess and the Hoppers traveled to Tupelo, Miss., to enter the performer in the Tupelo Elvis Festival, a nation-wide competition. After the competition was narrowed to 40 performers, Burgess placed in the top 20. He knew the contest would be fierce.
“This is the competition that everyone wants to win,” he said.
Out of all Burgess’ performances, the Tupelo festival was the largest with about 500 attendees, and it was his first major competition.
His picture and a small write-up were even featured in the Tupelo Sunday Journal after the festival.
When he is not spending time with his 17-year-old daughter or working his day job shoeing horses — he has been a certified journeyman farrier through the American Farrier Association for 25 years — Burgess dedicates approximately seven hours every week to practicing and rehearsing.
“He is the real deal. His hair and beard are real compared to others who use wigs or attachments,” said Hopper, who is currently trying to land Burgess a gig at the Harris Arts Center in Calhoun sometime in the fall after his August show at Oostanaula Community Club on Aug. 21.
Burgess has Elvis-style black and white suits; while the black suit was made for him, he purchased the white suit online. He has also had shirts and scarves made for him.
Burgess might be a rookie to performing, but that fact is not apparent during his shows. He has never had a problem being on stage, he said.
His ultimate goal would be to make it to Memphis, he said.
If a contestant wins a supporting competition in Alabama, Florida, etc., they then move forward to the Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artist Contest in Memphis, which grants the winner $25,000.