The world-famous female Elvis impersonator has a band in Denver. If you haven’t caught the fever yet, now is the time to find the love. Shelvis and the Roustabouts always put on a high-energy show highlighting the power within as well as the impact of musical trailblazers.
At the age of 8, Lori Marie Muha, also known now as Shelvis, got struck with the needle of Elvis’ love. After attending his show at Nassau Coliseum where he gave her a scarf, which is still in her possession, Muha was hooked. She won a contest as the only female Elvis impersonator in 1995, and has grown her fascination by launching a band that showcases the music of Elvis and other Rockabilly pioneers.
However, there is a challenge they face. Shelvis and the Roustabouts fall in between genres. Shelvis isn’t exactly a drag king. The band isn’t a tribute band, either. Muha, while she dresses in drag, is not a drag performer. Actually, she often fits in more easily in both lineup and culture with drag queens, even though she might appear to have more in common with drag kings. This might have something to do with the genre of music Muha sings, or just her funny, out-of-the-box, vibrant Vegas style. Either way, Shelvis and the Roustabouts are their own genre, and they put on an unforgettable show.
The band name the Roustabouts came from the movie where Elvis played a performer in the circus. Also, because Elvis had a 60s Vegas lounge act, the shows revolve around nostalgia, fun, and heart. There are four to five costume changes per show, sometimes encompassing the three eras of Elvis.
In addition to Elvis, there are songs from Buddy Holly, Johnny Cash, John Travolta, others, as well as a few band originals written by band members Laura Whitlock (also Muha’s wife) and David Duran that speak to LGBTQ (Go With The Flow) and musician life (2AM at The Breakfast King). At the end of most shows, Shelvis comes out as Lori, no makeup, no costumes, just herself. This represents personal versatility and the power that is behind one individual.
“I’ve never been in a band that smiles so much, everybody is smiling,” said James Patrick, drummer. “My old saying was good drummers don’t smile, but I guess I have to change that.”
During every show, the band is watching Shelvis carefully as she goes out into the audience. She is subtle, but she is giving signals on how to adjust the song to the intimate moments with each audience. Communicating with the band through dance is something that Elvis was expert at as well.
Why is performing as many different male influences as a woman important? Shelvis performs a large range of styles, and being a woman dressed as Elvis, going out into the audience, and strutting her stuff, showcases the multitudes and possibilities in oneself. There is also immense gratitude and amazement from the audience when Muha comes out stripped of the costumes and makeup. By stripping the costume, she also is shattering the expectations that a woman can’t embody these male powerhouses.
Why did she stick with it? “The word ‘can’t’ is not in your vocabulary. You have to believe in yourself, because life is hard. Period. And when you give up your dreams and your passion, a part of you dies … you are going to go through some bumps. You are going to go through some failures. With failures comes wisdom. With wisdom, you become better and better, and that’s how I survived.”
Come see Shelvis and the Roustabouts on December 20 at Rockabillies in Arvada and December 21 at Speakeasy in Longmont to experience the glitz and joy.