By Liza Harlow, Special to The Avenue (avenuenews.com, February 1, 2016) and The Dundalk Eagle (dundalkeagle.com, February 3, 2016)
Elvis is Le Roi! (Photo courtesy of Franz Goovaerts)
The award-winning Franz Goovaerts, who hails from Erquelinnes, Belgium, will be making his way to Baltimore County this month with stops in Rosedale and Dundalk.
Franz Goovaerts, an Elvis Tribute Artist with the well-deserved nickname Elvis Jr., was just a toddler when Elvis Presley died, but over the years the King has become a huge part of his life. The award-winning Goovaerts, who hails from Erquelinnes, Belgium, will be making his way to America this month with stops here in Baltimore and Pennsylvania thanks to his new manager, local music promoter Darlene Warren.
Warren, who has been booking shows for popular artists Ronnie Dove and Ronnie McDowell for decades, first met Goovaerts at Elvis Week, which is held annually each August in Memphis, Tenn. Goovaerts has performed at the event each year since 1996.
Throughout his career, he has won a long list of Elvis Tribute awards, including Elvis of Belgium (1991 & 1996); Elvis of Germany (1993); Elvis of Holland (1994); and Elvis of Europe (2000 & 2005). But the award Goovaerts is most proud of is the prestigious Images of the King World Championship. Goovaerts made a promise to his father before he passed away that he would keep entering the contest until he won. “But sadly he never saw me win the trophy,” he said.
Images of the King is an annual contest held during Elvis Week, and Goovaerts entered 10 years in a row beginning with his first Elvis Week in 1996. He earned third place in both 1999 and 2000 before finally being crowned the Images of the King World Champion in 2006.
2006 Images of the King Champion Franz Goovaerts (Photo courtesy of Franz Goovaerts)
Ironically, Goovaerts’ grew up on Elvis music thanks to his older sister Cynthia, but he wasn’t a big fan.
“Elvis was not my ‘cup of tea’ at that time,” said Goovaerts. But at the age of 15, he saw the “This is Elvis” documentary, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“My life changed. Don’t ask me why and how — I have no idea! Elvis came into my life, as God did too,” said Goovaerts.
So he started performing as Elvis for his family in the living room just for fun.
At the age of 16, he was on stage for the first time, “just because Cynthia was thinking that I was not so bad,” he joked.
Goovaerts has had no formal voice training, but does try to work on his accent, as French is his native language. When pressed, it’s tough for him to choose his favorite Elvis song.
“It’s really hard to say. It depends how I feel. But for sure, I’m out of the commercial stuff. I love Elvis’ style, voice and charisma in the 70s,” said Goovaerts, whose favorite albums are Elvis Today and Raised on Rock.
“The best part of being an Elvis tribute artist is feeling so close to him when I sing his songs. I feel like I understand him,” said Goovaerts. “Elvis was not only a singer, not just a Vegas showman. At the end of his life, Elvis found himself. Probably many songwriters understand this. So in 1974 to 1977, most of the time, Elvis sang about his life.”
“Franz is one of the most popular Elvis tribute artists that go to Memphis every year for Elvis Week. He has always been one of the highlights of Elvis Week for me,” said Warren. “He’s very memorable. He doesn’t wear the jumpsuit — he doesn’t need it.”
Last August while at Elvis Week, Warren took a leap and talked to Goovaerts while at his show and asked if he’d like to do some more shows in the U.S. “I said, ‘people needed to see what I’ve been talking about all these years,’” she said.
They quickly clicked and it was a match made in Memphis — Goovaerts asked if Warren would be his manager.
“He’s so passionate and so talented, I just wanted as many people to see him as possible,” said Warren. So she booked Goovaerts’ first U.S. tour in November 2015, and he opened for Ronnie Dove for shows in Maryland, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Mississippi.
As an Elvis Tribute Artist, of course Elvis is the focal point of Goovaerts’ shows, but he does work in other artists, and Warren says he does a great Tom Jones.
“I need a good feeling about the song in order to sing it. It needs to talk about what I like or how I live my life. It’s all about love,” he said.
Warren is working on scheduling shows for Goovaerts every three months in the U.S. He currently tours all over Europe.
“I’m just trying to do something different from everything else you see right now,” said Goovaerts. “If you want to see an Elvis Tribute Act, I do it my way, and with a lot of respect.”