Darren 'Graceland' Jones
Darren ‘Graceland’ Jones

Twenty-nine years after being nicknamed ‘Elvis’ at Croesyceiliog School in Cwmbran, Darren Jones has been named Welsh Elvis 2012.

Many Cwmbran people will remember Darren, who grew up in Pontnewydd, as the main man behind the decks at the Pleasure Dome Nightclub in the 1990s.

But last month Darren, aged 40, beat 13 other Elvis impersonators from across Wales in a show at the Hi Tide Inn in Porthcawl to be crowned the best ‘King’ in the country.

Darren ‘Graceland’ Jones,  told Cwmbran Life: “I was 11 and had a quiff like Elvis. One of the boys called me Elvis and it just stuck. I’ve never been called anything else since.

“I didn’t sing Elvis songs but I did do a sketch in a school show when I was 13 or 14. During my 20s and 30s I was often seen singing his songs at karaoke.

“I lived in Corfu for a couple of years. A guy saw me sing and asked if he could book me to perform at his bar. I did a 30 minute show every night.   Then when I moved back I was at a wedding in Ireland and put on a cheap plastic wig and sang. A bloke come up and said ‘you should do that as a living.’

“I was about 35 at the time and came back and looked at what other impersonators were doing and went from there. “I saw the level they were at and realised that I had to work hard. People don’t want to see an overweight bloke in a suit made by his nan.

“People want to get an experience as close as possible to Elvis. But I do put my own personality into my shows.”

Darren on stage
Darren on stage

Europe’s biggest Elvis convention is held in Porthcawl every year. This year it’s from 28-30 September.

“I’ve been asked to lead the world record attempt for the largest gathering of Elvis impersonators in one place. The record is about 645 so we should smash that. My friends and family love it. They’ve encouraged me more than anybody. When people see me perform they say ‘I can’t believe it’s Elvis from the Pleasure Dome’.”

He is currently rehearsing three times a week ready for the biggest show of his career at the seaside town.

“I’ve been asked to headline on the Friday night in the Pavilion. I’ll be picking up my Welsh Elvis 2012 award on that weekend so it should be great.”

If you can’t get to Porthcawl you can see him perform in a charity show at Cwmbran’s RAFA club on 26 October. In 2010 he represented Wales in the Elvis World Cup 2010 in Cardiff. He now lives in nearby Sebastopol.

Watch this You Tube video below of Darren ‘Graceland’ Jones
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D6aO9Vt277s&w=560&h=315]

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