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Face to Face: Music a family affair
For Randy Friskie, music was a way of life growing up in Niagara Falls, Ontario. The musician known as “The World’s Best Elvis Tribute Act” owes his musical roots to his father, who played 14 instruments and was a country rock staple in Southern Ontario.
“I spent most of my time in our music room,” says Friskie of his formative years. There he learned to sing, play drums and guitar alongside his father and his musician friends.
Friskie was barely five years old when he first witnessed the phenomena known as Elvis Presley, starring in the movie Love me Tender.
“I was devastated when he died at the end of the movie,” says Friskie. “So my mom showed me all of his other movies, so that I knew he was okay.”
That began a lifelong obsession and appreciation for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll.
“He was just so cool,” says Friskie of his earliest impressions of Elvis. “And the way he carried himself was as cool as his music.”
Friskie spent his teenage years as a “long-haired hippie punk,” playing with his own band and backing up his father’s band on drums.
“I’d jam out to Led Zeppelin with the guys… but Elvis was my first love,” he says.
Friskie soon put together a tribute act, and after years of playing across Western Canada, he got his big break at Expo 86 as part of the Elvis, Elvis, Elvis show. After two weeks of shows playing at the World’s Fair, organizers asked him to put together a solo Elvis act of his own.
Friskie was originally booked for another two-week slot, but the response to the show was so great, festival organizers extended the engagement, for seven weeks in all.
“Some nights there were 25,000 people there,” he says.
Friskie decided to make the Lower Mainland his new home, and the increased exposure led to steady work in Las Vegas and Reno, and a role in the 1989 movie It’s Only Make Believe, where he played - you guessed it - and Elvis impersonator.
However, Friskie is quick to point out that he is a tribute act, and not an impersonator.
“There’s only one Elvis, and he lived to entertain,” says Friskie. “And that’s all I’ve ever tried to do. Entertain the audience, and share his music.”
Much like Friskie inherited his love of music from his father, so too has Friskie’s daughter Cassandra inherited a love of music from him.
Father and daughter Friskie will both be appearing at the Genesis Theatre on Jan. 3 as part of Randy Elvis Friskie and his Las Vegas Show Band’s That’s The Way It Is Tour.
“She steals the show,” says Friskie. “She does everyone in this show. Dolly Parton, Patsy Cline, Cher, Liza Minnelli, Reba McEntire, Shania Twain, Taylor Swift, LeAnn Rimes, and even Marilyn Monroe.”
Cassandra got her start on stage close to 15 years ago at age nine, when she performed Patsy Cline numbers with Friskie’s band at the PNE.
“She blew everyone away,” says the proud father. “I have goosebumps just thinking about it.”
• Randy Elvis Friskie and his Las Vegas Show Band’s That’s The Way It Is Tour come to Ladner’s Genesis Theatre on Friday, Jan. 3. For tickets, visit ontourtickets.com, or call 1-855-411-7500.