Turning 70 this year, Eddie O’Rourke has become philosophical these days, looking back at his musical career and what success means.
Two years ago, when the much anticipated book “All the King’s Men” was published highlighting the 100 Elvis Tribute Artists from around the world, O’Rourke was slightly disappointed when he only got his photo in, and not the full bio he had expected.
The publisher apologized later, saying that there had been space considerations, and promised that with the next volume, O’Rourke would get his due.
Strangely enough, social media networks such as Facebook had brought his name to the forefront in the first place.
“My fans on Facebook heard that there was going to be a book published and they lobbied for me,” he said.
O’Rourke, who also runs a music studio in the Bergen Point section of Bayonne, is a familiar name among locals, often playing many of the street fairs for Town Center Management Corporation and in local venues.
But he is also well-known outside local circles and over his long career, he has played with some extremely notable musicians. O’Rourke has befriended some musical legends such as Chet Akins and Les Paul. At one point, he played with Les Paul Jr.
The publisher was true to his word and with the recent release “Next Generation of Kings,” O’Rourke received his due as part of the book’s Hall of Fame section, which noted that O’Rourke has been an Elvis Tribute Artist since 1977, a member of the Rockabilly Hall of Family and an Ambassador of Good Will for the State of Tennessee.
“I’m not an Elvis impersonator. I do not try to become Elvis – I try to evoke the spirit of Elvis’ music.” – Eddie O’Rourke
“Eddie has been associated with some of the major movers and shakers in the music industry,” the book’s biography said. “While still in his teens, he performed with rock legend Jerry Lee Lewis and County Blues artist Charlie Rich.”
A performer of a much wider variety of music, O’Rourke started his on his path as a tribute artist the night of Elvis’ death on Aug. 16, 1977, when people made requests for the King’s music. Already well into his own career as a professional musician, O’Rourke honored requests to honor Elvis during a gig, and found the reaction so pleasing that he expanded his act to include more Elvis.
O’Rourke makes a distinction between a tribute artist and impersonator.
“I’m not an Elvis impersonator. I do not try to become Elvis – I try to evoke the spirit of Elvis’ music when I play,” he said.
He also takes pride in the fact that he does not enter Elvis Tribute Artists contests, although he understands why others have in the past.
“For a long time that was the only way you could promote yourself,” he said. “Social media has done a lot to change all that.”
Another huge change came when David Silverman purchased the rights to promote the Elvis image from the Presley Estate.
“Prior to that, the Presley family frowned upon contests and tribute artists,” O’Rourke said. “Now these are promoted and encouraged.”
Facebook has been very kind to O’Rourke, who has had a page on the site for three years and has garnered more than 3,000 fans.
“The follow me religiously,” he said.
Since he plays in venues up and down the east coast, his following covers a similar geographic range.
“ETAs serve a real purpose in that they keep the spirit of Elvis alive,” O’Rourke said. “The music business chews up and spits out talent after it is threw with them. But Elvis is still popular and ETAs serve as a surrogate for the emotion of seeing Elvis live.”
The book “Next Generation of Kings,” by Joseph Clough and Teresa Winston, is published by CoffeeTable Press and is available through the company’s website or through other online book sellers.