Tell us about yourself and your band. What's your history and how did you decide on Elvis?
More than 22 years ago I started out singing in my church and members of the congregation kept telling me they thought I sounded like Elvis. A Valentine’s Day church social tongue-in-cheek performance was inordinately well received, then came karaoke and one thing led to another. I was going to quit the business about 5 years ago and our guitar player asked if I’d keep it up if I had a live band, and so here we are!
My wife, Jean, has been an integral and essential supporter and without her I would have thrown in the towel a long time ago.
We understand you used to work at the University. What are your most memorable experiences?
I was the manager of Parking Maintenance for 23 years, through many a snow storm, the technical evolution, maintenance and many improvements in University parking lots, structures and streets. I moved into project management during the 2 1/2 years I was at the University. I’m proud of having helped a great team within PTS and partnering with Landcare and some awesome vendors to keep around 22,000 stalls accessible, safe and clean.
Discuss your transition into fulltime entertainment and how it has guided your work as an artist.
I thought retirement was going to be relaxing, but I’ve always been very task, goal and productivity-driven (and am a bit of a perfectionist), so my energies have largely been focused on improving and promoting the Elvis Tribute show with the EP Boulevard Show Band. For our theater and cruise ship productions, we incorporate multimedia, seeking to turn the concert into a live music video -- and I do all of the creative and technical production.
What drives you to keep doing what you do?
I love to perform. About 90% of the time, the business requires creating, rehearsing, learning, accounting, investing, advertising, taxes, exercising, politics, promoting, planning, scheduling, insurance, negotiating… all the stuff that comes with running a small business. The 10% of the time I spend on stage makes it all worthwhile. It’s great music, a unique niche, our audiences and our fans are the BEST. We love to be able to take people back to another time and make them smile.
Tim Sparks and Phil Heywood are two of the reasons why Minnesota is known nationwide as a hotbed for acoustic fingerstyle guitar. Both guitarists are widely recognized for their solo careers and have inspired seasoned pros and aspiring students alike with their unique talents. Both are former National Fingerpicking Champions who have gone on to release numerous recordings and compile lengthy performance resumés.
Trained by Segovia protegee Jesus Silva at the North Carolina School of the Arts, Sparks has continued to study classical music throughout his career. His adaptation of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite has been cited as a significant contribution to solo guitar literature. His wide travels inspired his interest in European and Mediterranean styles, particularly the music of the Balkans. Upon his return to Minnesota, Sparks immersed himself in the ethnic music scene, performing on Oud and Saz in Middle Eastern ensembles and playing guitar in Greek, Klezmer, and Sephardic groups. This work culminated in the recording of Sparks' Balkan Dreams Suite, a remarkable collection of odd-meter guitar arrangements.
Heywood grew up in Mt. Vernon, Iowa, where, at age 12, he took guitar lessons from a Cornell College music student who taught him to fingerpick songs from The Weavers’ Song Book. The lessons also included new material by songwriters of the blossoming 1960s folk scene, and culminated in an arrangement of Mason Williams’ ubiquitous Classical Gas. A few years later a high school friend introduced Heywood to the acoustic blues guitarists of the 1920s and 30s and the music of fingerstyle pioneer John Fahey. It was a veritable Big Bang of exciting sources that quickly expanded into the repertoires of Leo Kottke, the Minneapolis trio Koerner, Ray and Glover and others.
About 10 years ago, Tim and Phil began to work up duets and perform together. They’ve built an exciting and wide-ranging repertoire drawing from American folk/blues/early jazz roots, some brilliant forays into “world” music, and a few well-chosen pop obscurities. The two have honed a dynamic concert format that showcases each guitarist’s solo selections and culminates in the full glory of two world-class fingerpickers going at it together.