Brian all shook up by career change
For more than 20 years, Brian Wheeler doggedly climbed the career ladder as a salesman selling security systems to the retail industry.
But on turning 40 he took the bold step of giving up his �70,000-a-year job and swapping his work suit for a jewel-encrusted jumpsuit – as an Elvis impersonator.
Two years on, and after performing in more than 300 shows across Europe, Brian has made a return to the Optic nightclub, in Prince of Wales Road, Norwich, where his second career took off before Christmas in 2008.
Brian, 42, of Arundel Road, Great Yarmouth, had loved singing since he took part in school productions and had always been an Elvis fan, but described his dramatic career change as “a bit of a fluke”.
He said: “At about the time I split up from my wife Louise, I was looking for something else to do and my friend Gary Meredith, who owns the Optic nightclub, remembered I used to do corporate karaoke gigs in the early days of the craze about 15 years ago.
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“He suggested, ‘why don’t you buy an Elvis suit on Ebay and come along and do a show for me on a Thursday night’. That’s how it started.”
Brian was surprised how well it went and just five months later, when his firm was looking for voluntary redundancies, he decided to become a full-time Elvis.
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He has meticulously studied DVDs of Elvis to get his moves right and die-hard fans have praised him on his elvisinperson.com website as “the most authentic Elvis tribute act in Britain”.
“People say my voice is uncannily similar but I regard my act as a fusion of Elvis and Brian. I interract with the audience and get them involved in the show,” he said.
Since donning his Elvis suits – faithful recreations costing more than $15,000 – Brian’s hectic schedule has included bookings as far afield as Cyprus, Menorca and mainland Spain.
“My highlight so far was a show last New Year’s Eve in Beirut. I enjoyed business class flights and stayed in a lovely hotel, all for a 20 minute performance on stage in front of an audience of 2,000 people,” he said.
Brian has visited Gracelands twice and it is his dream to perform in Elvis’s Memphis homeland.
That dream will be realised next month if he wins the British heat of a major Elvis competition, the winner of which will get to perform in Memphis in August.
For next year, Brian is already fixing up a British tour and will again be spending the summer months abroad.
He said: “My 9 to 5 lifestyle has been completely turned round.
“Nowadays I get to do a job I really love in the evenings and my days are free to do what I want.”