Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.
“I am a D.C. staple, just like the president and mayor and all of those people. Come on, I am Blelvis, the black Elvis. Everyone knows me. Now, I am basically a street performer for lack of a better term. But, I have not always been a street performer. I used to have a band, Blelvis and the Sun Blisters. We played all over town.
“I grew up in the Petworth area. I went to Petworth Elementary, Macfarland Junior High, and Roosevelt High School. I have lived in Montana, Wyoming, Arizona, and Texas. A sad, but true commentary about D.C. is that most young, black people have never left the metropolitan area. I am fortunate that I have seen a lot of places, but I always came back to D.C.
“People always ask me, ‘Why Elvis?’ I guess we were connected since birth, as I was born the same day, but different year, as Elvis on January 8. You can say that Blelvis was born the day that Elvis died on August 16, 1977. As a teenager, I used to listen to the radio a lot, but never liked Elvis. When he died and they announced the the king was dead, all of the radio stations started playing his music non-stop. I kept changing the stations, trying to find one that was not playing Elvis, but I couldn’t. At first, I was pissed and then I heard ‘Treat Me Nice.’ I was like, ok, that sounds pretty good. Then another song came on, ‘(You’re so Square Baby) I Don’t Care.’ Anyway, I ended up listening to Elvis the whole night. I was like, damn, he put out some good shit. A couple of days later, I got my first Elvis album. Then, as the old southern expression goes, whole hog or nothing at all. It means whatever you get into, go all of the way with it or don’t do it at all. That is the way I am.
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“Ever since then, I have devoted my life to the king and know ever word to every Elvis song ever written. That is 1,112 songs. I even brought Elvis into my family. I got married at 18, right out of high school. My wife was 27 at the time. We were married for 12 years and had four kids. The first two, she let me name. My first born is Elvison, son of Elvis. My daughter is Elvisa Desiree. The third kid I wanted to name Aaron, which is Elvis’ middle name, but my wife said, “Enough with that Elvis shit!” She was going to let me name our fourth girl Priscilla Marie, but my Mom just died and I named my child after her. My kids don’t love Elvis like I do, but my oldest two respect Elvis out of love for me, but the younger two wonder what the hell is wrong with me! They like Tupac and all of that rap music.
“Now, I am 43 and like to play things by ear. If something pans out, I would love to perform again. I am not in my prime anymore, but I can still do my thing. I’ve also been working on some other acts: Bliberace, the black Liberace, and Blincoln, the black Lincoln.
“Okay, Blevis is about the leave the building. I got to go to Blemphis, the black Memphis.”