Elvis (performer) back as co-host

Veteran showman Shaw knows his own stage jitters
2011-02-17T00:00:00Z 2011-02-17T00:16:02Z Elvis (performer) back as co-host Arizona Daily Star
February 17, 2011 12:00 am

You could probably get away with calling Battle of the Band's co-host Robert Shaw "Elvis" without hurting his feelings, but he asks that you don't call him an Elvis impersonator.

"I just say I'm an Elvis performer," Shaw says. "I personally have a distaste for the word impersonation, 'cause to me that's a guy in a jumpsuit. I actually approach our concerts like a piece of theater, that they have an arc or a story to them. We share parts of his life."

Shaw, 32, performs several Elvis-themed shows with a rock band, one based here and one in his home state of Indiana, and as a guest artist with symphony orchestras around the country.

Shaw said he'd taken piano lessons when he was 5 or 6 and played trumpet for a while in junior high school. He caught the stage bug while playing Sgt. Gregovich in a high school production of "Teahouse of the August Moon" as a teenager growing up in Indiana.

"It was irreversible," Shaw said. "The first musical I was involved in was "The Music Man," . . . in high school. Music and theater seemed the way to go to me. That's when I started taking voice and acting lessons."

Actually performing as a musician on stage came much later. It was after his supposedly one-shot Elvis show at the Gaslight Theatre in Tucson turned into a career, that he learned to play guitar.

And even then, it was doing a Johnny Cash tribute that drove him to learn how to play rhythm guitar.

"You can kind of get by" without really knowing how to play guitar when doing an Elvis tribute, Shaw said. That sunburst acoustic guitar was more of a prop than an instrument for Elvis. But Shaw said there was no getting around learning Cash's simple, but unmistakable style, on guitar.

"I still don't know that I'd call myself a guitarist around Blake (guitarist Blake Matthies from Shaw's Tucson band), Shaw says.

Having fronted a band doing Elvis or Johnny Cash songs hundreds of times, Shaw says he's able to identify with the young bands performing at the Battle of the Bands.

"I had a little nerves last weekend, Shaw said about performing his "Celebrating Elvis" show with the Louisville Orchestra.

This will be the fifth year Shaw has emceed the Battle of the Bands. He said he's been impressed with the dedication he's seen on stage.

"I would never have thought of approaching that at that age. The stuff they're doing, too, is not 1-4-5 (three-chord) rockers, most of them."

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