The Legendary Big Elvis

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Big Elvis Poster

Big Elvis Poster

Those of you who are new to Las Vegas–or perhaps too young to remember the late Elvis Presley (1935-1977)–may have heard that the city has its fair share of Elvis impersonators. You might wonder why, after all these years. Not only did he star in the movie “Viva Las Vegas,” but Elvis had a hugely successful seven-year residency in Las Vegas (at the Las Vegas International Hotel, now the Westgate), so his life and music are as much a part of the fabric of this city as the Rat Pack.

It feels like a rite of passage to see an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, as much as seeing a magic show or Cirque du Soleil or even playing a slot machine just to say you did. I’ve seen two Elvis impersonators in the past: One guy who was just an okay singer but very funny; and Steve Connolly, who is fantastic and can be seen Downtown at the Four Queens in his “Spirit of the King” show.

But perhaps the most legendary Elvis tribute artist in Las Vegas is Peter “Big Elvis” Vallee, who has performed on the Strip for many years (formerly at the Barbary Coast/Bill’s and now at Harrahs Piano Bar). He is known as “Big Elvis” because he is a very big guy. For one reason or another, I have never made it to his show until my trip this January. It has taken me over a decade of visits to Las Vegas to see him perform. Shame on me.

Harrahs Piano Bar

Harrahs Piano Bar

Big Elvis performs 3 shows during the afternoons, and they are free. You can’t beat that, folks. I arrived during his first show, and it was packed. There wasn’t even room to stand in the doorways. I went away and came back shortly before his second show. This time, there was plenty of seating, so I grabbed a barstool, ordered a drink, and waited.

Mine was not a great vantage point for photos or videos. (Both of which he encouraged people to take, which is a refreshing change from most shows in Vegas.) In order to see Big Elvis while he performed, I had to sit with my back to the bar. Except when he stood, only his head was visible above the two pianos that take center stage in the Piano Bar (he was on the other side). For this reason, I would probably try to arrive even earlier next time and secure a seat along the rail around the pianos with a better view. There are also tables, but as a solo, I usually try to leave those for couples and groups of friends.

By the time he started his second show, the bar filled up completely. There were obviously people in the crowd who had seen him before, probably many times. He is well-loved, and it’s easy to see why. He has an amazing voice! The minute he started singing, he just blew me away.

Of the more well-known Elvis songs he performed, my favorite was “Suspicious Minds”; he sounded so much like Elvis in that one. He also sang some more obscure Elvis songs such as “In the Ghetto.” The casual Elvis fan might not know this song, but I did because we had the record in my house when I was growing up, and I heard it many times. He also sang a song he said Elvis never finished recording because he came down with the flu at the time. I didn’t catch the name of it.

Big Elvis

Peter “Big Elvis” Vallee signs autographs after the show.

Big Elvis took a couple of requests from military men in the audience. He clearly has a great deal of respect for those who have served their country. At one point, he held a contest where volunteers could come up and play air guitar during his song (“Viva Las Vegas,” of course) and whoever was the best would win a CD or something. That was hilarious. A couple of guys really got into it, even sliding across the floor. The things people will do for a free CD.

After his set, Big Elvis stayed around for photos and to sign autographs and such. He is a really nice guy, very generous with his time. If you find yourself looking for a great afternoon show, I can’t think of a better one–especially since it’s free. (Although you’re expected to buy a drink or two if you’re sitting in the bar during the show.)

He performs Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons at 2pm, 3:30pm, and 5pm in the Piano Bar at Harrahs.

19 thoughts on “The Legendary Big Elvis

  1. Leslie

    As many times as I’ve been to Vegas, I haven’t seen Big Elvis yet. I’ve been lucky enough to see Elvis Presley in person-twice in Spokane Wa. and 4 times in Las Vegas. I have been a huge Elvis fan all my life.. Big Elvis will definitely be on my to-do list for my next trip Tnanks again for all the blogs you write- I look forward to them!

  2. Stephanie freeman

    Every time (3 x a yr)we come to Vegas we come see Big Elvis. We LOVE him, what a gifted and talented man. When he was at Bill’s we went back stage and met him he signed autographs for us……great man!!!!!!!

  3. mo pruitt

    Saw him at Wild Bill’s and actually played in his air guitar band that day. Great performer, does Elvis justice, and will see him again next trip to Vegas….

      1. Stephanie Freeman

        Whatever happened to the guy that played with Elvis, I think his name was Chuck? He always played before Elvis came on!

  4. Senj

    I also have seen Elvis in Vegas. Actually, there was a period of several years where we went every February and August for 5 days and 4 nights and saw both shows (back then they had a dinner and late night cocktail show) at the International. Those were the days….a Great performer! I have seen Big Elvis when he was at the Barbary Coast and I have to say I was very impressed. Glad he is still performing and I will have to try to see him again on my next trip to Vegas. Thanks for the review.

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      I’m glad you enjoyed it, Senj. You’re lucky to be able to say you saw the “real” Elvis when he was performing in Veags. I bet that was something.

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  6. Ricky Pisani

    Seen Big Elvis at Bills Saloon and Harrah’s piano Bar many times over the years….in fact it’s the only show I go see other than a Rock n’ Roll concert at the Hard Rock Hotels ” The Joint concert theatre….or of course some other great free live music on Freemont Street in ol’ Vegas. The combination of all these shows always makes for a great trip to Vegas without ever spending a penny on gambling :)))))))))))

    CHEERS
    RICKY

    1. Gray Cargill Post author

      Agreed, he’s great, Ricky. I wish there were more free shows like this in Vegas.
      (And on another note, I’m sorry this didn’t get approved sooner. I don’t think I got a notification about it via email. Will have to check my blog settings.)

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