You may have seen him around town in a Cooper’s vehicle, but Bryan does much more than deliver prescriptions. His art can be found around town and for years he has performed at Elvis week as an Elvis impersonator. Bryan is an avid Elvis fan and I learned more about Elvis in 20 minutes of Bryan’s time than I ever had before. Anyone interested in a caricature can contact Bryan through email, his email is elvisinwichita @ yahoo.com (remove the spaces around the “@” sign to email Bryan, to protect his account from spam, spaces were inserted).
Art from The First 35 by Bryan Clark.
Mara: Where can your art be found in town?
Image of Don Adams from Get Smart
The muse for Bryan’s first caricature, Don Adams.
Bryan: All over at Sugar Shane’s Cafe downtown. On the city channel (channel 7) I drew a piece for Crimestoppers of Sherlock Holmes and a sniffing dog. Hanging at the Augusta Public Library and in two books I wrote and illustrated The First 35 and Hawaii 4 Closer to the Beach.
Mara: Who was the subject of your first caricature?
Bryan: Don Adams from Get Smart. I’ve still go the caricature. Not my best but I can tell it is Don Adams.
Mara: When did your art really take off?
Bryan: Looking at a Mad Magazine cover, I saw Mort Drucker’s art. I thought it was so cool that you could draw somebody as a cartoon, but it still look like the person it was supposed to be. I asked my dad if I could have the magazine, Mad was a little [hesitation]…
Bryan: Yeah [laughs] my parents agreed to get the magazine for me and I practiced emulating Mort Drucker’s [art].
Mara: Forty years ago the King of Rock died. What inspired you to impersonate Elvis?
Bryan: My fascination with Elvis started with movies. He wasn’t performing [music] when I was growing up, he was acting in films, that was my first exposure.
Mara: You impersonate and perform during Elvis week, when does that take place?
Bryan: It varies, it usually starts around the 8th of August and ends with a candlelight vigil starting on the 15th going into the 16th when he died.
Mara: What is your favorite Elvis song to sing?
Bryan: I don’t know that I could say for sure that I have an absolute favorite, but one of my favorites to sing is Poke Salad Annie, but I love so many of [his songs].
Mara: Do you remember what you were doing the day Elvis died?
Bryan: Yeah, I was at work, down at Plaza IGA. I was walking through the back room. I’d been up by the produce department, headed for the courtesy booth going up the back aisle. When a friend of mine that was off that day came in the back door, just as I was about to the back door. He had this look on his face, I asked him, “Hey how you doing?” He told me Elvis just died. I thought that’s a really unfunny joke, ha ha. He told me they announced it on the radio, and it was like someone knocked my feet our from under me and I collapsed onto a sack of potatoes. I asked him a couple questions, he didn’t know the details. Then I was called to take a call, it was my dad. I knew when my dad called me that it was real, that my friend wasn’t pulling my chain. It was a weird day.
Mara: Did you ever see Elvis in person?
Bryan: No, it’s one of my big regrets. I’ll go to my grave regretting that. The last time [Elvis] was in Wichita was in December 1976, about 8 months before he passed away. I was at a science fiction convention with a friend of mine at the Broadview Hotel and it was the same night Elvis was in town. We ran into another friend of mine who was also a science fiction and Elvis fan like me. After awhile he said he had to go, Elvis was about to be on at Henry Levitt. I knew Elvis was in town, but I didn’t have a ticket. My friend asked if I wanted to go with him, I told him I didn’t have a ticket, and I thought about my friend I came to the convention with, was I supposed to ditch him? I thought Elvis would be back in a year or two. If I’d known what I know now, I would have said, “Here are the keys to my car, would you mind taking my car home, I’m going to go see Elvis.” I heard later it was one of his best shows in a long time, it was the first show of a 5 city tour, he had lost weight, he was energetic, he sounded good …he even sang Poke Salad Annie.
Image of the Jungle Room at Graceland.
The Jungle Room at Graceland.
Mara: Have you traveled to places where Elvis has lived?
Bryan: Yes. I’ve been to Tupalo, Mississippi, where he was born. I’ve been to where his ranch was in Walls, Mississippi and I’ve been to Graceland. There is a room called the Jungle Room at Graceland (read the story below to find out why Elvis initially bought the furniture), the room has a lot of heavy wooden furniture with leopard-spotted and tiger striped [upholstery]. Carpet is on the ceiling, which was at the time a big decorating fad in California.
Elvis’ dad came home from being downtown one day and Elvis overheard his dad saying how Donald’s Furniture had the ugliest furniture he had ever seen and he didn’t know who would buy that ugly furniture. Elvis got all the guys into cars and they went down there that night and bought every stick of furniture in the window. On his way out Elvis said, “Make sure my Daddy gets this bill”.
FUN FACT: Elvis recorded two albums in the Jungle Room in 1976, the last two albums that Elvis recorded with RCA. To accomplish the task RCA parked their recording truck in the backyard and put their equipment through the back windows (they had to remove the glass to get the equipment through). The carpet buffered the sound and made a natural studio.
Mara: What part of Elvis’ legacy do you hope lives on?
Bryan: His music and his generosity. He recorded over 700 songs between his studio and concert performances. He sang some songs in concert that were never recorded in the studio. For a number of years, Elvis would donate to various charities in Memphis, Tennessee. In 1966 Elvis donated $105,000 to charity.
ADJUSTING FOR INFLATION THAT 1966 DONATION WOULD EQUAL $800,000 IN 2017.
One reporter asked Elvis, “Do you ever get tired of people coming up and asking for autographs and pictures?” Elvis responded that he would be worried when [his fans] quit asking.