Liverpool Elvis impersonator to be cremated dressed as The King

An entertainer known as Liverpool's Johnny Elvis is to be cremated dressed as his idol after losing his battle against cancer.

John Rathbone, better known as Johnny Elvis, died at his home in Stoneycroft last Wednesday after being diagnosed with bowel cancer earlier this year.

Johnny, 75, had been entertaining audiences for over 30 years – impersonating Elvis on stage from Huyton to Las Vegas.

He even reached the semi-finals of a competition to appear on American Idol.

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His wife of nearly 40 years, Mary, 83, who also performed with her husband, spoke about how he first came to be known as Johnny Elvis over 30 years ago.

She said: “When I first went out with him, he was more into motorbikes and liked to go to the TT races but I wasn’t too keen.

“So we started going to karaoke in a club in Huyton called the Brickwall Inn.

“The manageress would get us both up to sing.

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“One night, they had a fancy dress party and he got an Elvis suit and the manageress said 'oh you look and sound just like Elvis, why don’t you do some impersonating?'

“Then she started recommending him to people.”

From that point on, Johnny would sing in pubs and clubs all over Merseyside, four nights a week, under his new name of Johnny Elvis.

Often accompanied by Mary who also impersonated stars like Lili Marlane and Carmen Miranda, their double act that would take them from a karaoke pub in Huyton to singing in hotels and bars Benidorm and Las Vegas.

While the couple were holidaying in the US, Johnny also unwittingly entered a competition where the grand prize was to appear on the TV talent show American Idol.

Mary said: “A few years ago we were on holiday to the US and we were out at a theme park.

“We saw an advert for a talent competition and I persuaded him to go for it.

John Rathbone, better known as Johnny Elvis, had been entertaining audiences for over 30 years as an Elvis impersonator

“He only had shorts, a t-shirt and a pair of flip flops on.

“We had to all sit in the audience and press these buttons of who we wanted to vote for.

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“He didn’t win but he got to the semi-final and received a certificate to say he auditioned for American Idol.”

Up until November 2019, the couple were still performing several times a week, entertaining audiences in clubs and care homes on Merseyside.

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Mary, who plans to retire from performing now that her husband has died, says Johnny will look the part for his funeral which will take place next Tuesday.

She said: “We’ve hired a carriage and black horses and he will be dressed in his Elvis suit, wig, and Cuban heel boots. He would have loved that.

John Rathbone, better known as Johnny Elvis, with wife Mary in their younger days

"If we were ever in the supermarket and he got recognised he would just pretend to grab a mike and start singing.

“He was a fabulous husband. When we met we had both been divorced and he just took my three children on and loved the bones of them like his own daughter.”

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John Rathbone (Johnny Elvis) will be cremated at Springwood Crematorium on Tuesday, September 15 at 1.30pm.

The service will be conducted by a priest who, by coincidence, also happens to be an Elvis impersonator.

He is survived by wife Mary, his daughter Emma and step-children Pauline and Kevin, 11 grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

Mary has asked for family flowers only and for donations to be made to Macmillan Nurses.

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