Oh Lordy Mama. Photo by John Gilhooley/Shot at Memory Lane Classic Car Junkyard
Oh Lordy Mama. Photo by John Gilhooley/Shot at Memory Lane Classic Car Junkyard

Sparkle Motion

Graceland Mafia just want you to have a good time. 

What do you guys want to be called in print?

Jimbo: We've got stage identities. I'm the guitar player—Jimbo "Machinegun" Williams. Our vocalist is Melvis "The King" Dupree. Our bassist is Jon "Handsome Jack" Healey. And our drummer is Zambo "The Hitman." And that's really how we prefer to be referred to.

What's the reason for the names?

Jimbo: We're the Graceland Mafia. We thought we'd get Mafia nicknames to support our stage show.

Melvis: For me it was to set us apart from who we are on the stage from who we are off the stage. We're not your average bar band playing Lynyrd Skynyrd covers. I came into it with a name and a personality because I used to be an Elvis impersonator years ago.

Did the band name come from Elvis' cronies the Memphis Mafia?

Melvis: Memphis Mafia is trademarked. Graceland Mafia isn't. We want to impart that "gang of guys cruising around in pink Cadillacs" feel.

So, Melvis, you used to be an—I hope I'm using the right terminology—an Elvis impersonator?

Melvis: You can use whatever terminology you want. I don't do it anymore because those people take it way too fucking seriously. They're scary. Those people are weird. I never took it too seriously. I used to make amphetamine jokes and people would get so offended. First of all, I'm not him, and he's dead. But I've always loved the music and my voice is in the same register as Elvis'. But I never drank the Kool-Aid. The Elvis thing is a little too constricting. I have my own voice and I have things to say. When you're just sitting there, just doing cheesy Elvis, you can't make any statement except, "Oh, lordy mama."

Have any favorite locals?

Jimbo:We like playing with and going to see Waxapples, Brass Knuckle Voodoo, and Hellbound Hayride. And Franki Doll has recently started a solo act. She's been there from the beginning, too. As far as bands that have influenced us and we haven't got to play with, Cadillac Tramps are right up there. We love playing the Galaxy and the Coach House. The staff treats us well and they put us on good shows. We enjoy playing the House of Blues, too.

You refer to yourselves as "non-rockabilly," right?

Melvis: Yeah, well, we've got a lot of hairdos. If you looked at pictures of us, you'd assume we're a standard rockabilly band. There are rockabilly elements in our music. We don't really fit into a genre, but we fit with a lot of genres.

Jimbo: Absolutely. A wide array of musical influences come through in our sound. It's always a tough call for musicians to name the style they play. It was getting difficult to say we had some surf influence, some punk influence, some country influence, and not being able to answer the question concisely. So, we invented a genre. For the time being, we're the undisputed kings of the genre we invented. We'd like to state for the record that we're not hoping to be disputed.

Orange County has a pretty entrenched rockabilly scene. Do they embrace you?

Melvis: I grew up here. Grease in my hair isn't anything new for me. Those are my friends.

Jimbo:We absolutely are. Jon, our bass player, has a roots background. Zambo and I both come from a new wave/punk background. Mel likes the polished glamour acts—Kiss, Neil Diamond, Tom Jones, everybody that's wearing sparkly stuff.

Melvis:I tried to be a musician for a long time. I'm not. I'm an entertainer. I sing well. I write decent music. I love that huge, epic, showman quality—lots of sequins, glitter and rhinestones. You may not like what we do, but you're never going to forget that you saw it.



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