Elvis Presley didn't die, he just went on tour.
That's the feeling you'll get when you watch "Elvis Lives." One of the show's stars, Bill Cherry, won the 2009 Ultimate Elvis Tribute Artists Tour and is the only person in the cast who has been in the show every year it's been on tour.
"Elvis Lives" will be presented Jan. 4 in Savannah.
"This will be our first concert at the beginning of the current tour," Cherry says. "In early 2010, we put together the 'Ultimate Elvis Tour,' now called the 'Elvis Lives' tour."
Cherry is considered a tribute artist, not an Elvis impersonator.
"I've been doing Elvis as a side gig since the late 1980s, but was never really doing it for a living," he says.
"I had a job, so it was a hobby. I've been an Elvis fan all my life. In 2007, a friend of mine found out about the contest and said, 'Man, you should try this.'
"I won, which was amazing," Cherry says. "It's a global contest, and you have to win a preliminary in Tupelo, Miss., where Elvis was born."
At the finals in Memphis, Cherry learned he was up against 25 other winners.
"It's a contest of champions," he says.
In 2008, Cherry was working in a steel foundry as a welder.
"The industry took a dive and there was a massive layoff," he says.
"That actually freed me up to focus more on the Elvis thing," Cherry says. "It was like a domino effect."
From a very early age, Cherry was an Elvis fan.
"My parents were Elvis fans," he says. "At about 6 and up, I would sing along with his records.
"I always tried to imitate him because I liked him. Every time an Elvis movie came on, we would watch it and I'd go in the bedroom and put on a record and sing, never knowing that I would be doing it some day to make a living. It's weird how life falls into place."
After Elvis died, Cherry's parents took him to see an impersonator.
"It was my first experience to see that type of thing," he says.
"The place was packed. This guy walks into the room and people are standing on chairs to get a look at him.
"He walks in with four bodyguards and people were going nuts," Cherry says. "He hits the stage and I thought it was so cool. I had no idea there was an audience for this."
From that point, Cherry began working in earnest on his Elvis act.
"I started doing mock performances for my parents in the living room," he says.
"I would put on white jeans, a white dress shirt and spray black hair dye into my blond hair and put on a little Elvis show. My dad, who was a Pentecostal minister, was standing in the corner and he'd hold a flashlight that was my spotlight.
"I'd put on a live Elvis album and sing and dance, but once I started sweating, the spray dye started melting," Cherry says with a laugh. "But I've always been an Elvis fan and I was blessed to be able to win the competition."
"Elvis Lives," which is the only Elvis tour licensed through Elvis Presley Enterprises, features three tribute artists and a segment honoring Ann-Margret. There is the 1950s Elvis, the leather Elvis and the jumpsuit Elvis of the 1970s, which is Cherry's segment.
"It's a very unique show for all ages," he says. "We try to stay historically correct as far as the songs and staging.
"It's like a time capsule. It takes people back to a period in life they remember or want to try to relive.
"Our audiences range from elderly to middle-aged to young," Cherry says. "People want to bring their grandkids to introduce them to Elvis, because unfortunately, no one is ever going to see the real Elvis live again."
The show is a unique experience, Cherry says.
"They're getting three different performers," he says. "There's a live band, backup singers and dancers, and it's very entertaining."
Although Cherry enhances his appearance to look more like Elvis during the show, all tribute artists are required to have at least a passing resemblance to Elvis to help pull off the illusion.
"But we all have our own personalities," Cherry says.
"There's a time to be in character and a time to be yourself. As tribute artists as opposed to impersonators, we don't think we're Elvis.
"We're trying to do an honorable, respectful tribute to the man as opposed to guys with bad wigs in Halloween costumes," he says. "There's been enough stereotyping."
Elvis is still so popular that there is a fan following for many of the tribute artists.
"We do reach a slight celebrity status and recognition through that," Cherry says. "There are times when bras and panties may be thrown on stage."
There are so many good Elvis songs, it's hard for Cherry to pick a favorite.
"My favorite part of the show I would say would be 'Suspicious Minds,'" he says. "It's got a lot of movement and the crowd loves it when I shake around."
Cherry says the artists are all excited to put on the show in Savannah.
"It's an all-ages show," he says. "We can't wait to be there and see everyone."