In the sixties, Jean Pierre Pellicano played Elvis Presley’s ‘Greatest Hits’ album on the record player that he actually wore out the grooves.  Hound Dog and Can’t Be Cruel were his favorite tunes, and his brother Max heard them so often that they became fused with memories of  his brother and his childhood.

Five years younger than Jean Pierre, Max pores through scrapbooks in the study of his comfortable Harrison Township home.  The room is filled with

“Jean Pierre was the ‘Fonzie’ of our neighborhood,” says Max, shaking his head at fond memories of his brother’s innate coolness.  “I had five cousins that grew up near me, but Jean was the guy we looked up to, the guy we all wanted to be…”

The Pellicano family moved from Syracuse, New York to Alameda, California in the mid-1960’s, where a couple of buddies convinced Jean Pierre to enlist in the Army.  “They were recruiters, and I guess they convinced him it was the thing to do.  He was sent to Vietnam in 1968 as a medic, which was what Jean Pierre was all about.  You needed help, he was there.”

Was it big bro’s musical influence—the endless Elvis—that hurdled Max onto a career path which has served him well for over thirty years? 

“Funny how things work out,” confesses Max, who is considered one of the world’s best Elvis tribute artists, one who still performs regularly around the globe.  “Don’t say ‘Elvis Impersonator’,”  he smiles.  “I’m an actor who portrays a character—in this case, Elvis Presley.”

He’s right: with a Drama degree from California State University, he had a choice of career paths, and in fact, was headed to New York to do stage work when he was approached by a promoter to do a single gig as Elvis in Hawaii.  “I figured I’d give it six months,” says Max.  “I’d just finished a production of ‘Bye Bye Birdie’, and I had the character pretty much down.  The six months turned into a couple of years, then more.  It just sort of ‘worked’ for me…”

His experience has included numerous appearances in Australia and years as a part of the Las Vegas extravaganza  ‘Legends in Concert’ show, but in ways, his upcoming performance at the Andiamo Novi Theater is a culmination of his life’s work. ‘Don’t Be Cruel: The Life and Times of Elvis’ walks the audience through Elvis’s entire history as a performer, and touches on all the significant aspects of his reality, both off and on stages.  “We don’t pull any punches, it’s all there—the good and the bad,” says Max.  “What we try to do is explain the ‘whys’ behind all the ‘whats’ that everybody is aware of…”

The show is a tribute to Elvis, but as Max pulls out his black-lacquered guitar, an exact duplicate of Elvis’s (except that the fret board is inlayed with the phrase ‘Elvis To The Max’) and plays his brother’s two favorite tunes, it’s clear that every time Max Pellicano gets on stage, he’s also paying tribute to his older brother.

Jean Pierre Pellicano was killed in action near the DMZ on November 5, 1968.



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