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Honoring Elvis

Ronnie McDowell celebrates his 25th anniversary in music at the same time he's remembering the 25 years since Elvis Presley's death. That's not exactly a coincidence - in fact, the connection is downright eerie.

Ronnie launched his career by writing and recording a tribute to Elvis, "The King Is Gone," shortly after Elvis' death in 1977. The heartfelt ballad, sung in a deep, Elvis-like tone, hit the Top 20 on both the country and pop charts. Ronnie went on to score over a dozen Top 10 country tunes and even a pair of No. 1s, "Older Women" and "You're Gonna Ruin My Bad Reputation."

"It is kinda weird to me," admits Ronnie, "that I got started because of Elvis' death. But I wrote that song from my heart, because I was the world's biggest Elvis fan. I meant it sincerely."

Not everyone shared his conviction, though."People magazine named it the Worst Song of the Year," Ronnie remembers with a generous laugh. "I actually thought that was pretty funny."

But Ronnie's totally serious about his new album, Ronnie McDowell: A Tribute To The King, which commemorates Elvis' legacy with Ronnie's take on 24 of his biggest hits, including "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Love Me Tender."

"I did the album with some of the guys from Elvis' original band - Scotty Moore, D.J. Fontana and the Jordanaires," notes Ronnie. "That makes it really special."

Ronnie has two other projects on his plate: an album of '60s "beach music" with pop icons The Drifters, and another upcoming country CD. He's also helping guide the career of his talented 12-year-old son, Tyler. "He wants to sing for a living," declares the proud dad. "I think there are some lessons I can pass along to him."

Ronnie remembers learning his the tough way. "Some people looked at 'The King Is Gone' as a novelty record and thought I was a one-dimensional artist," he says. "After that, I had a little trouble getting played at radio.

"I realized at that point," he continues, "that I had to be a good entertainer. You have to give people a show - and thank God I figured that out early in my career. I think that's why I still have a strong fan base."

And fans are seeing a re-energized Ronnie these days. "I'm in better shape physically than I have been in a while," he notes, running a hand through his hair.

"I feel good about everything

I'm doing."

-- Bob Paxman