The King lives (on) . . . somewhere in Beauport!

Elvis.jpg
Photo: Photo courtesy of Steve Laperrière

Steve Laperrière shows Elvis impersonator Shawn Klush around his basement museum, 2012.

Steve Laperrière's house is like hundreds of others in Beauport - a car in the driveway, a few Halloween decorations on the lawn. Only inside does the difference become apparent - the unmistakable, soulful voice of Elvis Presley floats up from the basement. A late gospel recording. "These were some of the last songs he recorded," Laperrière observes, a bit sadly. "Listen to that."

Laperrière remembers Presley's death, 38 years ago this past summer, like it was yesterday. "When he died, I was eight," he recalls. "Around me, people were so sad and angry. You knew a great person was gone. I kept the Soleil and the Journal de Québec the next day. That's when it started."

"It" is Laperrière's memorabilia collection, thousands of Elvis-related objects - scarves, figurines, ticket stubs, gold records, posters - all carefully arranged in two rooms of his basement.

"When I was 11, I worked as a paperboy and with my extra money I bought myself an Elvis record; I've never unwrapped it. Later I collected my brother's old records." He shows off a collection of LPs and eight-track cassette tapes, thick as books, almost impossibly bulky by today's standards. "Eight-tracks are very rare, and rarity has a price."

Laperrière's collection spans music history, from phonograph records to eight-tracks to cassettes and CDs. "Now, with music downloads and MP3s, you don't have anything to collect," he observes. "Nothing you can touch. Just the music between your ears."

Several people who worked with Elvis, including his longtime drummer DJ Fontana, have visited Laperrière's museum. "They come because they know I'm not a crazy fan," he says. "It's all fun for me, to meet someone like [Fontana] or go to a big convention and have someone recognize me."

Laperrière finds his memorabilia by word of mouth, estate sales, on line and sometimes purely by accident. "A few years ago, I got rear-ended when I was driving and I needed a new taillight. I called a salvage yard I knew of in Pintendre, the kind of place you go if you need a new steering column, a new hubcap, whatever. They said, come on up." Sitting on a pile of car parts, Laperrière found a 1971 Quebec vanity plate with the word ELVIS. "See? He follows me everywhere."

One item you won't find among Laperrière's collection, however, is a ticket stub from a concert in Quebec City. That's because it never happened. "Elvis wanted to come here in 1957. He was doing a Canadian tour and went to Toronto and Hamilton, but the Church wouldn't allow him to come to Montreal, said his music was ‘the devil's work.'" Nearly 20 years later, he was invited to play the Olympic Stadium in Montreal. "He refused," says Laperrière; he said, "You didn't want me in 1957, you won't have me now." Even though the King never came here in his lifetime, his music sells better in Quebec than in any other Canadian province.

Laperrière's fascination with Elvis' legacy and memorabilia has taken him all around North America and Europe. "I've been to festivals in Las Vegas, California, all over," he says. "Practically every time I travel I meet other fans, even in England and France. After a while I started collecting ideas for an Elvis festival in Quebec."

On November 8, the third edition of the Elvis Presley Convention will be held in the Salle Jean-Paul Tardif (Collège Saint-Charles-Garnier). A memorabilia show and amateur Elvis impersonators' contest will be followed by a concert featuring Elvis' one-time film co-star Cynthia Pepper and three of North America's top Elvis impersonators, Americans Cody Slaughter and Shawn Klush and Quebecer Mathieu Nardi. The memorabilia expo will begin at 10 a.m. followed by the contest at 11 a.m. The show will follow at 8:00 p.m. with tickets sold separately.

Laperrière has no trouble explaining Elvis' lasting appeal. "He was a superstar. He was the greatest. He had a magical voice, an amazing vocal range; he was as undisciplined as they come and could still perform like that. And the personal magnetism of this guy was just unimaginable. He didn't even need to sing and the crowds went nuts.

"We'll never see the likes of him again," says Laperrière. "Often imitated, but never, ever equalled."

For tickets and information, contact Steve Laperrière at 418 667-8309.