Andrew Leonard will play Elvis Presley at The Artists Shed

The Artists Shed is taking care of business with a tribute to the King.

The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, that is – Elvis Presley.

Canberra Elvis tribute artist Andrew Leonard will be donning his jumpsuit to perform Suspicious Minds and other Presley hits, with a particular focus on the 1970s Elvis look and style.

January 8 is the 86th anniversary of the birth of Elvis Presley and, although the Parkes Elvis festival is not going ahead this year, Leonard was, unsurprisingly, already booked elsewhere, with gigs in both Gungahlin and Goulburn.

“I’ll be working from 2 to 11,” Leonard said.

But he was happy to perform the Fyshwick gig on the eve of Elvis’s birthday.

Leonard, 47, began singing Presley songs at karaoke bars when he was 29 and, after he won $1000 singing My Way in a singing competition, he decided to parlay his love of Elvis into a career.

And there was certainly no shortage of material to perform.

“He was diverse, there was so much good music,” Leonard said – from rock ‘n’ roll to ballads to gospel in a range of vocal styles.

Although the past couple of years have, understandably, been pretty quiet, Leonard has long made a living as a tribute artist, with Johnny Cash and Dean Martin also in his repertoire, singing at private parties, in clubs and at other venues.

He’s performed to audiences large and small, from a recent living-room performance to a few dozen people in Melba to a crowd of thousands in Singapore.

Military historian Kathryn Spurling and long-time artist friend Margaret Hadfield are two of the four people behind The Artists Shed.

The space opened in Queanbeyan in 2004 and has been in Fyshwick for the past two-and-a-half years.

There used to be a cafe run by others, Spurling said, and when it closed she and her partners decided to open a wine bar themselves and have local musicians perform each week.

Why open with an Elvis night?

Spurling said, “We felt we needed some fun.”

Not incidentally, “I’ve been a fan from my teenage years – I wasn’t a Beatles fan, I was an Elvis fan,” she said.

“I’ve always loved his music, loved his voice – he was unique.

“That’s why they called him the King.”

And given the anniversary, they called on “one of the best Elvis impersonators, who’s in Canberra and went to Copland College”.

There was room for about 90 people with social distancing and as well as recommending masks, she encouraged people to wear ’70s-era clothing.

“The Artists Shed supports local artists and our Artistic Vision Gallery, features rescued and upcycled original Australian art,” Spurling said.

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