I’m not sure how many people would have the guts to attend a concert dressed as Elvis. I know I certainly wouldn’t have the nerve. Yet my new “Bruce Bud” Nick Ferraro did just that! And WOW did it pay off! Not only did one of his dreams come true but he also gained a “title”… all thanks to his talent and an Elvis costume. Elvis may be the King, Bruce may be the Boss, but my friend Nick…well, he’s The Philly Elvis. A name granted to him by none other than the Boss himself.
The Elvis/Bruce/Nick moment has all the ingredients of a rock and roll fairytale. What’s far from a fairytale however, is the fact that a real Elvis and Bruce connection exists. Die-hard Springsteen fans know that back in 1976 and after the success of Born to Run, Bruce jumped the fence at Graceland looking for Elvis. Unfortunately, he didn’t find him and was actually escorted off the Memphis property. OOPS! It was the middle of the night and Elvis was really out of town…performing in Lake Tahoe to be exact. And there’s another Elvis and Bruce connection. Bruce’s guitar strap on the “Born to Run” cover photo bears an Elvis fan club button. So yes, the King and the Boss are forever linked in Rock and Roll history.
Before I reveal the details about Nick’s moment with the Boss (while he’s dressed as the King), there are some important and interesting highlights about Nick to disclose. I wish to use references to Elvis then references to Bruce. The King then the Boss. It plays out that way for this post’s timeline so stay with me…I promise that in the end, you’ll understand the madness of my storyline because this Elvis, Bruce, Nick story is an epic one!!!
An Elvis reference…
As a young boy growing up in a Philadelphia suburb, listening to music was part of Nick’s family life. Records were on the turntable all the time. His parents and grandparents enjoyed the likes of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, and Elvis Presley. The ever present music fed into Nick’s natural talent. He was musically inclined. Never one to shy away from a performance, Nick remembers singing an Elvis hit at a family birthday party when he was only 9. “I always loved music and I was always the kid that liked acting and singing. My grandfather used to say, ‘I’m going to see you on TV someday.’ ”
A Bruce reference…
Nick’s love of all things Springsteen is deeply rooted in the city of Brotherly Love. While attending high school back in 1975, his Best Friend Bert (they’re still the best of friends to this day) introduced him to the music of Bruce Springsteen. Nick remembers his instant attraction to the sound. “I immediately jumped on board, I immediately got attached and bought Bruce’s first two albums.” Nick’s most cherished high school memories are all tied to Bruce…warming up for baseball games with Rosalita playing as the background noise…driving around in a ’68 Buick while listening to Bruce…spending Friday nights at Penn’s Landing and sitting on the hood of a car watching the muscle cars race… all of these memories…absolutely all of them, unfolded to the beat of Bruce Springsteen on 8 track.
Nick attended his first Springsteen concert with his best buddy Bert at the Philadelphia Spectrum during The River tour. It was December 8, 1980 and it’s a night he’ll never forget for several reasons. First, the good news… “There was so much excitement and anticipation of seeing my idol. I couldn’t believe I was seeing him live!” Nick recalls Point Blank as one of the most dramatic moments of the show. Bruce under the spotlight, alone, and center stage. “When I saw Springsteen live in 1980, I knew I wanted to be an entertainer.” As for the bad news…John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980. Nick will never forget the scene outside of the Spectrum after hearing the tragic news, “There were so many girls crying outside.”
Back to an Elvis reference…
Fast forward to Nick’s post-college years…It’s 1986 and he finds out about a local talent show at a bar in Philly. Nick convinces some of his musician friends to take part. They worked on an Elvis tribute and you guessed it, made it to the finals and won the $500 grand prize. Their act attracted praise and attention. Nick was approached after the show with, “So where are you playing next?” This interest led to mastering 40 Elvis hits and performing in and around Philadelphia.
By 1990, Nick’s talent and Elvis act led him to the lead singing position for The Fabulous Heartbreak Band. As Nick puts it, “It really took off. We hired an agent. We played the Poconos, on Cruise Ships, we were opening acts for the Drifters, Bobby Rydell, the Marvellettes, the Coasters, the Platters.” Nick enjoyed the musical acts and the touring for several years but opted to quit the band in the late 90s. He did however keep the Elvis act alive on his own. He performed solo with the help of instrumental music until 2005.
Back to a Bruce reference…
Nick can’t put an exact number on just how many Springsteen concerts he’s attended. It’s a significant amount though especially since he hasn’t missed a tour since The River. Bruce’s music is truly the soundtrack of his life. It’s always been there for him through the good and the bad. It helped him cope with tough business times and a divorce.
Nick enjoys the blessings of two children (Gina and Nicky) from his previous marriage. Both kids have enjoyed Bruce concerts with him. It’s a family affair. Nick jokingly admits, “My influence did trickle down to the kids.”
Enter Dotty and Happy Times……They first met back in 1998 but Nick and Dotty didn’t start dating seriously until May 5, 2008 which by the way also happens to be Dotty’s Birthday. Since that night… as Nick puts it, “We haven’t been separated since.” Thankfully, Dotty is a Springsteen fan but Nick claims, “She’s not over the top. Not like me. I just want to hear Bruce!” Finding love again with Dotty has brought Nick so much happiness. Appropriately, they selected “Happy” as their wedding song.
Now to the epic moment in 2009 when Elvis, Bruce, and Nick collide…I warned you that somehow all of these puzzle pieces would come together…
First and foremost, Nick resurrected the Elvis act for all the right reasons. “Raising money was the main motivation to get back into touring.” Nick donates a portion of his fee to the American Cancer Society and the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. Over the years, he has helped raise thousands of dollars. The other reason…”I always wanted to sing with Bruce on stage. I thought if I could dress as Elvis and get close enough, I know it could happen.”
It’s one thing to say you’re going to attend a Bruce concert dressed as Elvis, it’s another thing to actually do it. “Every time I had floor seats, the suit would be in the car but I would punk out.” Finally 2009 it was showtime at the Philadelphia Spectrum. Dotty was by his side and calming all his nerves. And well, she did apparently remind him in the words of Elvis…. “It’s Now or Never.” … “I don’t care how you feel, embarrassed or scared…you’re wearing it!”
The stars were aligned…Bruce was jamming in Philly… Nick was close enough to the stage….dressed as Elvis… AND…with a sign in hand…it read…”Can the King sing with the Boss?”
The E Street Band got a kick out of Nick’s costume. There was a lot of laughter and eye contact with band members…Nils, Stevie, Clarence. Then, drum roll please….
Bruce looks at Stevie and announces to a packed Spectrum, “We’re graced by the King himself.” Bruce breaks into All Shook Up …the crowd, the excitement, the energy…everything kicks into full tilt. Another drum roll please… Bruce looks at Nick and says, “King, Come on up King!” Nick walks towards the stage, fans help him up, Bruce even offers his hand but Nick is too freaked out to take his hand….once Nick is on the stage…suddenly the Boss is handing his microphone to the King!!!!!!
OMG!!!!! I told you this moment is epic! Elvis, Nick, and Bruce together on stage!!!
“Entertainment took over. I started engaging with the fans. I hurt my legs, I pulled a hamstring, I was having a hard time hearing the music, I didn’t have an ear piece, I felt I wasn’t singing on key.”
Blah blah blah Nick!!! Really??????? You were on stage with Bruce!!! Your dream came true!!! On key or off key who cares!!!!!!!
Now for the icing on the cake…yes, it gets better…not only did Nick sing All Shook Up with Bruce, he cued the band and seamlessly broke into singing Blue Suede Shoes. After his performance with the Boss, he was knighted as “The Philly Elvis.” A title that will stick forever. Nick was mobbed by fans and in true Philadelphia fashion, he experienced a “Rocky” moment…looking for Dotty and screaming her name into the crowd of people. “Dotty, Dotty…we did it! I can’t believe it! We did it!”
Reflecting back on the moment now Nick feels thankful and still a bit shocked. “The fact that I shared it with Dotty was amazing. I still can’t believe it happened. It’s almost like the whole experience was in my head. Acting out a dream…me on stage with a guy I admire for so many years! It’s hard to put into words.”
There’s more icing….
While Elvis I mean Nick is knighted and singing with the Boss, a Phillies Playoff game is getting intense at the baseball stadium across town. Nicky (Nick’s son) is there catching all the action. But even though he’s watching a baseball game, his mind is on Elvis at the Spectrum. Texts go back and forth with Dotty and Nicky can’t believe what he’s reading…”Your Dad is on stage with Bruce.” Nicky decides to scream to all the fans around him, ” My Dad’s singing with Bruce!” I told you this story is a rock and roll fairy tale!! Seriously can’t make this stuff up!!!!!
At the end of what Nick calls, “The best night of his life”….the Phillies win their playoff game with theatrics- 9th inning, 2 outs, bases loaded….oh yeah….boom base hit!!!! Fireworks light up the sky in Philadelphia! Oh what a night!!! The King sang with the Boss! The Phillies won!!!! I told you…epic!!!!
Fast forward to May 2013…
After a late afternoon jog, Nick suffers a mini stroke and gets rushed to the hospital. He spends the next 24 hours undergoing tests. Thankfully, he’s cleared and gets released but not before hearing even more good news! He checked his email and…”My complete feeling at the hospital changed. I felt better instantly.”
Why you ask????? The email was from the producer of “Springsteen and I” …
For those of you that don’t know, the epic moment was captured on film and made it into the Ridley Scott Production. That’s how Nick, Dotty, and I met. We all made the cut. In my opinion, Nick and Dotty’s segment is the best part of the movie!!! What a thrill to meet such an incredible couple and what a thrill to have new Bruce Buds. We recently spent time together in Philly and I just adore them…The Philly Elvis and Mrs. Philly Elvis. Too cute!!!! I know that many more fun times are in our future!!! After all, a Bruce bond lasts forever!!!!
For more info on The Philly Elvis or to book him for an event check out his website
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