Cass coming home Sept. 23Published 8:41pm Monday, September 17, 2012
Irv Cass cuts a sleek figure as Elvis Presley — especially considering the buck teeth and bangs he broke into the business with as Jerry Lewis.
Cass has been impersonating the King of Rock and Roll for more than 20 years, winning the 1999 World Champion International “Image of Elvis” Impersonator Competition in Memphis.
He also took first at Dick Clark’s American Bandstand Grill.
Three years ago, Cass incorporated Tom Jones into his act.
Cass, who married seven years ago and has two kids, hangs out at his rural Fenton homes near to his wife’s relatives. Situated between the country’s two most dangerous cities, Flint and “Big D,” Cass says he never goes to Detroit, preferring Chicago.
Born in Fort Wayne, Ind., he moved to Niles at age 2 and attended Niles High through 11th grade. Then his parents divorced, and he graduated from Brandywine.
“I was a new kid the last year of school named Irven,” he said, recalling his first time on stage in a skit with Hawaiian dancers and a volcano at Howard Elementary School.
He was 18 when he impersonated Lewis, followed by the “dark side of my life I don’t like to talk about.”
That would be touring with Fred Byler’s Fast Freddy and The Playboys, the seminal male dance troupe of the ’80s, which landed him on ABC’s “20/20” and “The Phil Donahue Show.”
He worked with Willie Nelson, Ronnie Milsap, Gladys Knight and, at a cancer benefit in Mishawaka, Peter Noone of Herman’s Hermits.
Cass’s first Elvis contest took place at South Bend Ramada Inn.
He always admired Presley, but “I didn’t know Elvis impersonators existed.”
Seeing Decatur’s Doug Church at the St. Joseph County 4-H Fair influenced him to try, though he felt “hesitant” because tribute artists weren’t held in high regard.
His act took him to Australia, Canada, Berlin, the Philippines, Beirut, England and across the country.
He is unable to perform at the 40th annual Apple Festival because he is already booked in Delaware.
Cass said Jones and Presley were friends in Las Vegas.
“They both have very, very powerful vocal ranges,” Cass said, adding a lot of people don’t know Jones can play guitar or that he also sang gospel.
Has Cass ever been tempted to just be Irv?
“I wouldn’t even know what my own voice sounds like,” Cass said, though he does toy with a variety show singing hits by Frank Sinatra and Bobby Darin.
Who: award-winning Elvis tribute artist Irv Cass
What: Niles native’s tribute to Elvis and Tom Jones
When: Sunday, Sept. 23. Doors open at 3:30. Show at 5.
Where: Kubiak’s Tavern, 319 Stateline Road, Niles
Advance tickets $10, $12 day of show. Stop by Kubiak’s (269-684-1906) or call Jeff (269-684-8297/269-240-5480)