Franklinton native draws acclaim for Elvis tribute

Published 12:04 am Sunday, March 31, 2013

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Cody Wise’s Tribute to Elvis, to be presented next month by the Franklinton Community Theatre, is that he’s only been performing a couple of years.

Wise, a 28-year-old Franklinton native and Bowling Green graduate, said Elvis Presley’s music has always been a part of his life.

“My mom brought me up on Elvis from the time I was a baby,” he said.

Performing was a different story. Wise, who previously had no background in music, started singing around the house. When he watched the world finals of an Elvis tribute competition on TV and saw how talented the performers were, he thought about it being something he’d like to do.

There was an open mic show coming up in Memphis, Tenn., and Wise’s then-girlfriend and now wife, Alana, encouraged him to “give it a shot.” Though he was nervous going into the show, he said it good a good response.

“It was pretty cool, looking back on it,” he said. “It’s just been a fun ride so far.”

After that first performance in December 2010, Wise went to Ben Hastings, who runs Sun Coast Studio in Albany, for vocal training. There he practiced night after night. He has also recorded a CD, which will be available at his show next month.

Wise has gotten national recognition for his Elvis tribute. Last month he won the Look-A-Like Award at the Elvis Extravaganza National Finals in Tampa, Fla. At the 2012 finals of the same event, he received the National Horizon Award, presented to the most promising up-and-coming Elvis tribute act.

An Elvis Week is held every August in Memphis, Wise said, and three different world championships take place. His first year there, 2011, he competed in one of the championships and placed in the top 10. Last year, he placed in the top 10 of both championships he entered.

Wise performs mostly along the Gulf Coast, in places like casinos and civic centers and at private events. Among other shows he’s headlined at the Hard Rock Casino in Tampa, Fla. He said performing is a year-round, almost-every-weekend thing and has basically become his second job.

Wise first job is at Magee Financial in Franklinton, where he is a loan officer.

“So I’m busy with that during the week and then this on the weekend,” he said.

Wise hadn’t performed locally with the exception of a show at the fair. He said people often ask when he’s going to do a show at home or close to Franklinton.

Having heard about Wise’s act, Rod Sabiston, president of the Franklinton Community Theatre, contacted him about being part of the Valentine’s event held last month at the 10-10 Club in Franklinton. That performance included skits from some of the community theater’s biggest hits and music from Franklinton native Cara Williams and was closed out with a set by Wise.

Wise said the event went great. Sabiston added many people said they came to that first show just for the Elvis tribute, and they requested more music from Wise.

The two talked about it and made the decision that the Franklinton Community Theater would host the Tribute to Elvis at the 10-10 Club. The facility, Wise said, is impressive. He saw it for the first time during rehearsals for last month’s event and said it’s more like something one would find in a place like Las Vegas than Franklinton.

“When I walked in here I was just amazed by the place,” he said.

Accompanied by the Heartbreak Orchestra, an experienced four-piece group, Wise will perform his Tribute to Elvis Saturday, April 27. The show will include three sets, one each from the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s.

Tickets are $15 each in advance and can be purchased in Franklinton at Leader Printing, Family Furniture or Farmer in the Dell (Magee Feed) or in Bogalusa at the Golden Pear. Tickets will be sold at the door, if seats are available, for $20.

For more information about the show, call Sabiston at 848-5845 or 504-453-0351.