Graceband goes big, Elvis-style
by Ed Solt
The Graceband came together to celebrate The King three years ago.
The band honed its chops at Torrance cultural institutions like the Gable House Bowl and Hale Hawaii, the latter a tiki bar that retains an 80s vibe and is overseen by an owner resembling Mr. Miyagi from “The Karate Kid” who opens his venue when he feels like it (particularly during Dodger games).
The band, in other words, is steeped in both Elvis and local history.
“All of our members are South Bay natives, many of whom graduated from the Torrance High Schools,” said lead singer and Elvis Chris Maddox. “Surf, sun, and Elvis!”
His inspiration to become Elvis happened as a result of Maddox’s teenage experiences.
“When I was in high school, I quickly figured out I wasn’t going to be the quarterback or class president,” he said. “But I was a proud ‘theatre geek’ and I recorded a version of me singing ‘Can’t Help Falling in Love’ on cassette… I played it and a girl told me she liked it and that was all I needed to hear.”
The Graceband is not another hack tribute band and Maddox isn’t another sloppy impersonator performing in a rhinestone studded jumpsuit. The South Bay supergroup has a full horn section, three guitarists, two backing vocalists, drums and bass. The 12-piece ensemble features Ryan Roelen (lead guitar), Danny Behringer (bass), George Steele (drums), Scott May (acoustic), Eric Durham (rhythm), as well as The Horns O’ Plenty, John Saffery, Hugo Vazquez, Robert Mukai, and Jimmie Williams. Backup vocals are provided by The Gracenotes, Kate Walker and “Sweet Caroline” McClean.
“We do it big like Elvis,” Maddox said.
The setlist includes hits like “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Suspicious Minds” but also mixes in songs from AC/DC, Led Zeppelin, the Black Crowes, among other rock classics.
“Elvis is the King and was constantly covering others’ music,” Maddux said “We like to have fun with that and reimagine everything with full Elvis-ized arrangements.”
“We are a celebration,” he added. “We are something between a fancy nightclub act and a Zumba class. You’re going to dance, and have a good time….We do this because we love the music that Elvis and the TCB band created, and we love entertaining. Frankly, we look at is as creating the show we wanted to see. We tell people: Don’t come, unless you want to have the most fun of your life.”
Graceband celebrates Elvis’ birthday January 31 at Saint Rocke (142 Pacific Coast Highway, Hermosa Beach). 7 p.m. See SaintRocke.com for ticket information and Gracebandlives.com for more on the band. ER