The Great Pretenders
By Megan Malugani, Dawn Schuett, and Miles Eakins
For a chance to sing on stage, Brad Boice shimmies into a jeweled jumpsuit, keeps his sideburns long and does his best impersonation of the King of Rock ‘n' Roll.
An Elvis tribute artist, Boice’s hip-shaking, lip-quivering act has taken him throughout the Upper Midwest, to Las Vegas and even to the Caribbean, where he performed at two shows earlier this year to benefit earthquake victims in Haiti. In December, he’ll travel to Memphis, Tenn., with a busload of fans for a tour of Graceland.
Boice is a public works employee for the city of Eyota during the week, but many of his weekends are booked for belting out more than 100 of the Elvis tunes that he knows. (Even he didn’t think there would be such a local demand for an Elvis.)
“The reason that I started doing this is because I just love singing,” says the 46-year-old Chatfield resident, who in his younger days sang in the area rock band, Gemini. “Back in the late ‘90s, I was a DJ for weddings and things like that. Just to do something different, I would put on an Elvis wig and a homemade Elvis-looking coat and sing ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ to the bride and groom ... One thing led to another and here I am today.”
In 2005, Boice was in the audience of a musical impersonator show with his wife, JulAnn, when a friend of the couple offhandedly remarked that Boice could sing better than the performers appearing that night. Boice went to the microphone to prove him right. A week later, Boice entered his first Elvis contest and took second place. He’s competed in at least eight other competitions since then, earning more recognition with each one, and has entertained thousands of adoring Elvis fans ages 5 to 85 at churches, schools, restaurants, and concert venues.
To hone the King’s style, Boice studied the entertainment legend through repeated viewings of filmed concert footage. “The moves are definitely the hardest part, and fitting into the jumpsuit (a custom-made, body-hugging outfit) is a challenge some days,” Boice says. “I can’t afford to gain any weight basically—and I don’t want to be the late Elvis.”
Autograph signing and picture posing after concerts are also part of the job, he’s discovered.
“I appreciate very much all the people who come to watch and hope they enjoy themselves,” Boice says. “I tell them, ‘Thank you so much for coming to the show. It beats singing to myself in the basement.’”
For info and a schedule, check out www.freewebs.com/bradboiceeta. Boice has four area shows scheduled in November: Women’s Tea At Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Rochester (Nov. 13); Fillmore Methodist Free Church Fall Event in Fillmore (Nov. 14); Booker Mini Benefit at Mayo Civic Arena (Nov. 26); Elvis Christmas Concert at Stewartville United Methodist in Stewartville (Nov. 28).
NEIL DIAMOND and STEVIE NICKS
While mystical songstress Stevie Nicks and pop icon Neil Diamond aren’t likely to team up in real life, a local tribute band is delighting audiences by bringing the two larger-than-life performers together on stage for a musical blast from the past.
Veteran local musicians Joanie and Jim Hagblom adapt the costumes, voices, and personas of “The Gypsy” and “The Solitary Man”—right down to Nicks’ onstage spinning and Diamond’s penetrating eye contact with audience members—when they perform their “Back to Back with Diamond-Mac” show.
The Hagbloms—a husband/wife team who have been performing together for more than 30 years, most recently in the band “Illusion”—have long included Fleetwood Mac and Neil Diamond numbers in the vast repertoire of songs they’ve covered. But as the popularity of musical impersonators and tribute bands has grown in the last decade, the Hagbloms recognized an opportunity.
So two years ago, Joanie and Jim—who own a cleaning business by day—decided to jump on the tribute bandwagon and focus solely on the two legendary performers they admired and thought they could imitate convincingly: Stevie and Neil. Jim commissioned a seamstress to create a sequined Diamond costume, and Joanie bought a long, flowing Nicks-esque dress made of lace, velvet, and satin.
They spent hours perfecting their vocal imitations, because, according to Jim, “the voice is the biggest thing in any kind of tribute. You can look like them, but the ultimate thing is if you can sound like them. That’s what audiences want to hear.” Other preparations included watching videos and DVDs of the real performers. “We watch how they move, how they carry their voices, how they interact with the crowd,” Jim says.
The reaction that “Back to Back with Diamond-Mac” has received is overwhelmingly positive, Joanie says. The audience gets into it so much, in fact, that a good portion of the crowd usually sings along to Jim’s “Sweet Caroline” and to Joanie’s “Dreams.” Other popular numbers are Jim’s “Cracklin’ Rosie, “Holly Holy,” and “Coming to America,” which he always dedicates to military veterans. From Joanie, the audience loves “Landslide.”
“It’s a good feeling. We’ve actually had people ask to get their pictures taken with us and ask us for our autographs,” says Joanie with a chuckle, noting that she signs her real name and not that of her husky-voiced alter ego.
While still a young band, Diamond-Mac has high hopes for the future. They’ve recently expanded from a four-piece to seven-piece band (including the addition of their son, Wade Hagblom, on drums), and they’ve already received a steady stream of accolades that are the bread and butter of a tribute band. “Sometimes you can hear people saying ‘Oh my gosh, she sounds just like her’ or ‘He sounds just like him,’” Joanie says. And once, they overheard the ultimate tribute band compliment: “That’s Neil Diamond. It’s just gotta be him.”
“Back to Back with Diamond-Mac” is performing at 9 p.m. on November 18 at the Wicked Moose.
"You'd be doing me a favor if you called me Wyatt or Earp, but not both."
(Kevin Costner in his 1994 portrayal of Wyatt Earp)
Wyatt Earp You’d be doing David Stuve a favor if you called him both a nurse and Wyatt ... or Earp.
The Mayo Clinic employee has been portraying the gun-slinging lawman for the past eight years with various reenactment groups, including the Wild West Theater Company, the group David and his brother, Rick, founded three years ago.
“Simply put, we bring the Old West to life,” says David. “We have been going to communities and towns under our flag or others for years, bringing action, excitement, and education to anyone willing to watch.”
While other reenactment groups often rely on “five-minute gun fights with two lines,” the Wild West Theater Company’s performances focus much more on “the interaction of historically accurate characters,” Stuve says.
Stuve has become somewhat of a legend in Wild West groups for his portrayal of Earp. But it wasn’t easy. In order to build his persona as Earp, Stuve says that it “was important to find whatever I could about the human nature of the man. The idea is to bring the man to life for those who come to see our shows.”
Stuve studied Earp’s on-screen portrayals, read biographies, watched documentaries. He has purchased upwards of $30,000 worth of authentic, custom-made costumes for the characters he portrays.
And, yes, he grew that moustache.
“My wife loves it,” says Stuve, laughing. “Actually, not really. She puts up with it because she knows that if I’m going to be an authentic Wyatt Earp, I have to have it. Earp had one of the most well-known moustaches on the planet. He’s in the top-20 moustaches of all time. I’ve had it for at least eight years, but it’s not all that popular at home. It’s part of being Wyatt Earp, I guess.”
In November, the Wild West Theater Company will be staging “In the Company of Legends,” an in-depth reenactment of Old West characters, at the Olde Pine Theatre in Pine Island. Admission to the play, which will be held Saturday, November 20, at 7 p.m., costs $13. Call 507-356-4900 or 398-5735 for tickets. For more info, check out wildwesttheatercompany. com. “This is a tribute show for my dad, Vern, who passed away this spring,” Stuve says. “He was a monster supporter of ours; if he could get to one of our shows, he did.”