Ex-Norwich vicar’s own personal tribute to Elvis
While Elvis Presley fans worldwide have been remembering the 40th anniversary of the death the King of Rock n’ Roll in mid-August, East Anglia has its own share of Elvis ‘tribute artists’. Mike Wiltshire reports.
Among the most unlikely tributes to Elvis is former Norwich vicar, Rev Andy Kelso, a gifted singer who presents a popular tribute act, with a special focus on the Gospel songs that Elvis loved so much.
In a recent show at The Talk nightspot in Norwich, Andy wove his own testimony into the performance, telling how he prayed his first prayer at age 19 after crashing his motorcycle at 75mph – and how his life changed.
As Andy’s faith grew, he decided to train for ministry in the Anglican Church and served in a number of parishes. He also became Chaplain to Worcester Warriors Rugby Club.
Andy, a father of five, admits he was “terrified” when he felt led to take his first Elvis tribute to a packed out concert in 2011. He was surprised by the positive response – “it’s been amazing and very humbling.”
He finds the Gospel songs “really touch hearts”. He recalls that Elvis was the best-selling solo artist in the history of recorded music, with sales of 600 million albums, but his three Grammy Awards were all for Gospel music.
Despite the many struggles that Elvis faced, his deep rooted faith in Christ was very evident towards the end of his life. Rick Stanley, the step-brother of Elvis, and the late Rex Humbard, an evangelist and friend of Elvis, tell how the singer spoke backstage in 1976 “about spiritual things and prayed in a quiet room where he recommitted his life to Jesus Christ.”
The last song that Elvis ever sang in public was his own passionate version of his favourite hymn, ‘How Great Thou Art’.
Rick was with Elvis just hours before his death on August 16, 1977. Rick says Elvis prayed, “Dear Lord, please show me a way. I’m tired and confused, and I need your help.” A few minutes later, Elvis looked at him and said, “Rick, we should all begin to live for Christ.”
Just one day before, Rick heard Elvis praying, “God, forgive me for my sins. Let people have compassion and understanding of the things I have done.”
Thousands of fans who recently visited Elvis’s gravesite, joined together in singing the ever-popular ‘How Great Thou Art’ – the words were written by a young Swedish preacher, Carl Boberg in 1885, and the melody adapted by Stuart Hine, an English missionary, in the 1920s.
Read our previous story about Andy.
Pictured above, former Norwich vicar Andy Kelso in his tribute act to Elvis Presley.