Rob Ely has mastered the art of the pivot. A term made popular during the pandemic, Ely has fully embraced it.
Currently a junk hauler and Realtor by day, it is his talent as an Elvis tribute performer for which he is known best. Ely owns Junk Hauler, as well as works as a Realtor for ReMax Modesto; careers he pursued as a result of the pandemic.
“Before the pandemic I was slammed,” he said of his success as an Elvis performer. “It was full time; all I did was music. I could pay my mortgage, my car payment, support my family.”
The performer noted his phone began “blowing up” with cancellations as venues were cancelling any live performances during the height of the COVID shutdown. Ely shared he began brainstorming and researching businesses which were doing well, even thriving. Discovering junk removal as a viable business and with a background in property clean up during the foreclosure years, it seemed a no brainer business for him. At the same time, he also decided to pursue his real estate license.
“My wife’s always been in real estate, so I’ve always been around real estate agents,” Ely said.
And while the two new ventures may be paying the bills, his love of music and Elvis remain ever present as he anticipates things beginning to open back up.
“Coming out of the pandemic is still a bit hit or miss by way of bookings and events resuming,” he said.
Residing with his family in the 209, Ely spent a good number of years providing for them singing about Blue Suede Shoes and Hound Dogs. It is a career he fell into with his twin brother Mike back in the mid-‘90s.
Simply singing in bar parking lots, knocking back a few beers, the duo gained a following in the San Jose area. At the invitation of their mother, a few years later they found themselves driving to the 209 to perform each Monday night at Red Lobster. Slowly that too grew and in time “Double Take,” the twin brother band was the regular act at the once popular Early Dawn.
“I grew up on Elvis, so we threw in some of that. Early Elvis ‘50s stuff,” Ely shared of the Red Lobster days, noting the playlist is a bit different for the club crowd.
With no formal training, yet bitten by the entertainment bug, Ely aspired to make a living performing music. After a year of fulltime work at Early Dawn, Double Take decided to put a band back together and return its focus to ‘50s and Elvis.
Ely said the combination of older band members and the classic music not only had a more popular draw, but also brought in more bookings and more money. Eventually he and his brother brought the Elvis Tribute to the show, with Ely sneaking off stage and returning as Elvis for 15 minutes of the set.
In time the brothers found their own individual niche and Ely dove full on into the Elvis World.
“I started doing contests and doing really well,” he said. “I was just a novice. I would watch these guys in Branson (Missouri) and a couple of big names on YouTube when I was first starting out. They were doing real well in the contests and making good money, a couple thousand dollars prize for a contest.”
Over the course of 16 years, Ely has traveled all over the country both performing, as well as competing in Elvis competitions. One, however, which sparked his interest the most was hosted by Elvis Presley Enterprises. The top tribute performer from contests hosted around the world would be flown to Nashville for Elvis Week and given the opportunity to perform/compete in front of their judges.
After coming up second in several, Ely earned a First Place nod in 2013 at a Laughlin, Nevada competition and went on to Graceland. He refers to that as his “Banner Year of Elvis.”
Nine years later he is still just as committed and passionate about the rock ‘n roll legend.
“Great music, first and foremost,” he said when asked what it is that keeps people still drawn to the legendary performer. “His voice was like no other voice. But I think for the older generation it’s because he was the first to do it. The first to come out and rock the stage. The energy, the moving around; for girls it was their first love. It’s like John Lennon said: Before Elvis there was nothing.”
Continuing with his appreciation for the late artist, Ely mentions an Elvis movie which will be released this summer and hopes that it opens the eyes of the younger generation on what a true talent Elvis was.
As for performing like the legend himself, Ely said it was a commitment he took seriously from the start.
“I really took a lot of pride in preparation. I practiced a lot,” he said. “Strengthened the muscles in my voice and my throat. It was a lot of trial and error.”
Now with thousands of events behind him, he gets a little tripped up to name a favorite song. After 16 years his answers vary from what he favored in the beginning to what he enjoys now.
“People, they really stop when I sing the power ballads,” he said, “like in a theater it just gets quiet, a dead quiet.”
As for the venue he enjoys to perform in most, just like the legend, Ely refers to the crowd.
“If the crowd is into it, it doesn’t matter where I’m at,” he said. “The ones you get where the people actually buy tickets and they’re coming to see Elvis and an Elvis show, I’ve had full theaters and it just erupts with every song.”
To learn more about upcoming events where Ely may be performing visit his Facebook page: Rob Ely-Elvis Tribute Artist. If interested in his business visit junkbattlers.com.