Pollaro featured in Elvis show

Don’t call him an impersonator.

Sterling Pollaro of Jamestown, N.Y., is an Elvis tribute artist, and one of the best ever.

Pollaro will perform at 8 p.m. Friday at the Struthers Library Theatre.

The show, Sterling’s Tribute to the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis!, will feature favorites like Burning Love, Suspicious Minds, Heartbreak Hotel, as well as Hurt, which came out late in Elvis’ career.

Everything about the show will be as close to the original performances as Sterling, the Lightning Strikes Twice Band, and the Ladies of Rhythm back-up singers, can make it.

That’s Pollaro’s passion – “I do my best to duplicate, 100 percent accurate,” he said.

Although he’s been an Elvis tribute artist for more than half his life, “I’m still watching videos. It’s a constant thing,” he said. Sometimes, while listening to the King, he’ll be “going back on the CD player over and over just to hear one word.”

It’s that kind of detail that made him the number one Elvis tribute artist in the country in 1997.

And, it’s that attention to detail that earned him recognition from Elvis’ cousin, Donna Presley Early, who gave him a 10 out of 10 in vocal similarity. “That was a great honor,” he said.

His voice is a close match, but the sound is only a part of it – and not the greater part. “It’s more about the man than the music,” he said.

While he enjoys being able to step outside himself and be the memory of someone else for a while, Pollaro is not in the Elvis tribute business for himself.

“It’s not about me. It’s part of me,” he said. “I’m not Elvis. None of us come remotely close.”

Pollaro didn’t understand what Elvis meant to people until after he died. That day was the start of Pollaro’s tribute. “It was the profound effect of Elvis’ death,” he said.

“My father was a big man and my father didn’t show tears,” Pollaro said. One day, “I remember seeing him look really withdrawn.”

“I was amazed. It was like a major event,” he said. “I asked him if the president died.”

“Worse,” his father said. “Elvis Presley passed away.'”

“I saw people in total despair,” he said. “I remember the look in my mom’s eyes, in the clerk’s eyes.”

Elvis was, of course, a household name.

“I knew the guy… Hound Dog,” he said. “I knew his music.”

But “I couldn’t figure why it changed the world,” he said.

He has come to understand the magic, the music that cannot be classified in traditional genres, and Elvis’ profound ability – “some of the notes that he hits… he could have been a great opera singer.”

Those things are what tribute artists strive to capture – “We’re trying to do an actual tribute to the man,” Pollaro said. “Our love for Elvis and what he did for the world and the music industry.”

“My goal’s always been to bring back a memory of one person who saw him, part of that wonderful memory,” he said. “Give them 45 minutes, an hour-and-a-half, whatever, of going back in time. If I can do that, my mission is complete.”

For those who don’t remember Elvis, he wants to introduce them.

“For the young kids and the people today who never saw him, if I can give them a little spark of what he was like…”

For decades, Pollaro has been one of the best at that.

It’s been his second job and he has worked hard at it.

Elvis died at the age of 42. Pollaro has continued his tributes to the age of 46

It’s not easy. “The time’s coming to hang up my cape. It demands too much,” he said. “It’s too hard to get in shape, get ready. It’s constant.”

Friday may be the last time Pollaro brings his vision of Elvis to the Struthers stage.

“It’s always a great place to play,” he said. “The fans in that area, they show you how they feel.”

“I would truly like to thank everybody who comes out to see us, the Elvis fans,” he said. “I’m so deeply grateful for the years that they have given me. They have made such an incredible impact on me.”

“They cry on your shoulder,” he said. “They approach you and they’re nervous. ‘You don’t know what this means to me.'”

It was pure Pollaro, no impersonation, when he said, “If we’re not around again, thank you very much.”