Justin Shandor
By Ronnie

Justin Shandor is the KING (no pun intended) of the Elvis impersonators. Not bad for a lad that isn't even 21 yet! Justin has the Elvis lip-snarl down to an art form and I would bet my money on him if he had a lip-snarl-athon with Billy Idol. Oh, and he also does a mean Ritchie Valens for the Rock 'N Roll Legends show.

DJ Ivan and myself were so impressed with Justin Shandor's performance as Elvis that we went back to the Elvis A Rama the next day to interview him for EAR CANDY. We wanted to know how he got into the Elvis impersonation gig. He was quiet-spoken and some of his answers surprised us, especially how he got into the Elvis thing in the first place.

Right: Justin Shandor as the young Elvis

E.C.: How long have you been doing the Elvis impersonation gig?

Justin: About a year now. I used to get teased in high school a lot , I didn't think I looked like Elvis...kids used to always come up to me, "I'm gonna kick your butt after school Elvis" (laughs)..."Hey, what did I do?!" "Dude, you wanna be Elvis!"..."No I don't!" I combed my hair straight back and wore jeans and a t-shirt, I wasn't really the type to wear the baggy jeans, I used to wear it more like the '50s. That was always my look...the rockabilly look.

I came out to Las Vegas hoping to get a gig playing the piano, doing my own thing cause I write my own music and I play. I came out here hoping to do something like that. But, I was 16 at the time and they told me "you've gotta be 21 to even be in the casino or a bar". So, I figured that I'd always been teased about Elvis and everything so why not just try doing it professionally?

I practiced a couple of songs and came down here to the Elvis A Rama and I met the owner. I sang one song for him and he said, "That's pretty close to the '50s Elvis voice." From there, I didn't know how to move or anything. He hired me on the spot. I came in the next day and I just sat and studied all the movies and all the videos. There's not really that much out of Elvis in the '50s performing on stage. You had the early movies like "Love Me Tender", "Loving You"...that's the stuff to study. So I studied stuff like that.

E.C.: What bout the Ed Sullivan clips?

Justin: He wasn't even really allowed to move on Ed Sullivan [the famous "from the waist up appearance"] Alot of the stuff I do are from the movies, I pick up some stuff.

E.C.: Did you have anybody help you with the moves, or did you just study on your own?

Justin: Picked it up on my own.

E.C.: How long did it take to get the lip thing down?

Justin: That's easy! From when I was a baby [laughs]

E.C.: Most of the Elvis performers do the '70s, jumpsuit era...

Justin: That's another reason why I got into it, because allot of the people, they just do the '70s. Alot of '50s songs that I do, allot of guys can't do because the voice is too high. "Blue Moon of Kentucky", like "That's Alright Mama", the early stuff from '54 or '55. There's only a couple of '50s Elvis impersonators...a guy that works over at "Legends" does the '50s Elvis...but he's older, like in his 30's. I'm 18 years old, I'm the youngest Elvis working in Las Vegas. An actually, everybody here they work an hour a day, I'm working 11, 12, 1, 2, go over to Frontier do a 4 o'clock show, come back here do a 4:30. Then I do a 5 o'clock show, then a 6 thirty show, go back over to the Frontier and do a 7 o'clock show.

Right now I'm working out in the gym trying to cut down at least 20 pounds. Don't wanna disappoint people! Young Elvis was skinny!

E.C.: [laughs] but Ritchie Valens wasn’t!

Justin: The movies make him look like a sex symbol than what Ritchie Valens really was. He was just a 17-year-old kid on his way up there. They made him too much of a sex symbol.

E.C.: You told me last night that you also perform in Laughlin?

Justin: We have the same kind of Rock 'n Roll Legends show in Laughlin.

E.C.: Do you do just Ritchie Valens? [one of his “Rock ‘N Roll Legends” acts]

Justin: Ritchie Valens AND Elvis...but we have a band over there. We don't do the track stuff. That's pretty fun.

Left: Justin and DJ Ivan

E.C.: How many songs do you have in your repertoire?

Justin: Oh, I can't even count...

E.C.: Every time I've seen your show, and I've seen it 3 or 4 times [including last years Vegas trip], you always do new tunes.

Justin: Every show we do here we do different songs, so after a while you get sick of the same 4 songs a show...probably about a hundred, maybe more...or less, I don't know.

E.C.: You were saying that you did your own music, have you recorded anything?

Justin: At home [laughs], not on CD yet. What I really wanna do, I wanna get into the acting and music. I study alot of James Dead and Elvis. Allot of the real early actors like Clark Gable, James Dean. These actors today, they are great actors but...it was more serious back then, they were more realistic. Instead of all the special effects, it just came natural. Put a camera in front of you and you had to be very realistic. I want to get into serious acting. Hopefully a couple of movie deals will come along.

E.C.: Have you been asked to do any kind of commercials or film work?

Justin: I recently made a music video with [the tape scrambled the name?!], a Canadian singer, she just got signed to a label. She might make it pretty big. I'm in this music video called "Feel Happy", Elvis is in the video and I have a dialogue at the beginning. They do a scene in a little trailer and then it goes into the music video...we're out in Death Valley filming.

IF I do anything in the future, they can just go back like "Before they were rock stars" [laughs] "see, he was an Elvis impersonator"!

E.C.: Have you ever thought of traveling overseas? I mean, Elvis is still HUGE in England...

Justin: I wish! There are so many Elvis impersonators around all over the world...that it's hard to get known as an Elvis impersonator. There is only just ONE Elvis.

E.C.: Do you find yourself slipping into the mannerisms and the voice when you are offstage? Is it hard to separate the two?

Justin: It just comes natural. I'm actually more of myself up there than I am Elvis. That's how I feel about it. I'm not Elvis, its just a tribute I'm singing his songs and I'm acting like myself. I've had this problem since I was a little boy playing with my ring and that's what HE did.

E.C.: You have allot of the small, subtle mannerisms down...

Justin: The shy Elvis...Alot of guys when I go see their shows, they act like a sex Elvis show, like a stripping' Elvis show. They try to overdo the sexiness a little bit...and Elvis, he really wasn't like that, until the '70s. He got more confident about his sex appeal. But, in the '50s he was just shy, a shy kid.

E.C.: How long do you see yourself doing Elvis?

Justin: [laughs] Like another few months or a year or so...’whenever my contracts over baby’ [in Elvis voice].

Click here for Justin Shandor's bio at the Elvis A Rama web site