Eight passionate Elvis Presley fans will give some love back to the community this weekend, when Dan D. and the Burning Love perform a benefit for the Stevens High School Class of 2007’s Substance-Free Graduation Event. Bandleader (and Claremont native) Dan LaPorte combines a genetic love for the King’s music (his father was a big fan too) with an eerie resemblence to Elvis, in both looks and voice. His four-piece band, buoyed by three backup singers, crackles along like James Burton, Elvis’s original guitarist, was leading it.
LaPorte got serious about his Elvis obsession one night a few years back in a Boston karaoke bar. He bought his first sequined leather jumpsuit and entered a contest there, which he won. After a few years performing solo at weddings, parties and charity events, LaPorte recruited some musician friends, and in 2005, Dan D. and the Burning Love were born. They quickly gained a reputation for their note-perfect re-creation of the “Elvis: Aloha From Hawaii” television special.
Experienced area players make up the Burning Love. Drummer Rick Leavitt of Newport spent nine years on the country circuit opening for the likes of Jo Dee Messina and TG Shepard. Keyboard player Marty Young and bassist Todd LeBlanc have both worked with several area bands. Newest member Mike Colburn performed with the late Seventies Elvis tribute group Paul Dee & the Manhattan Express, and more recently with the Boomer Sellers Band.
Their Saturday night performance (7 PM, tickets are $15 each, $25 for couples) also features a “special guest appearance” by a band called Little Memphis. It’s won’t be a clumsy opening act, though. “Little Memphis” is actually Dan D. and the Burning Love, minus the cape and King-sized sunglasses, and performing many original tunes.
“It’s something we’ve been working towards for a long time,” says Ed Leavitt, lead songwriter and a member of the “Inspirations” backup trio. Little Memphis has been hard at work on a record of original material, and the response to it so far has been encouraging.
Leavitt wrote one song, “The Lights Went Down In Graceland,” based on, he said, “my memories as a kid of when Elvis died.” The band sent the it to Jason Edge, the president of the Elvis International fan club. “Jason really liked the song, and posted on the website,” says Leavitt.
The band was surprised and gratified by response to “The Lights Went Down in Graceland.” “We got emails from around the world,” says Leavitt. “Elvis International reaches 28 different countries.” The song also attracted the attention of Doc Walker, program director at Sirius’s “Elvis Radio” satellite station.
With a little more luck and hard work, Little Memphis hopes to break out, which means a gradual phasing out of the band’s tribute work. Thus, Saturday’s show may represent one of Claremont’s last chances to witness Dan LaPorte’s dead ringer act.
Maybe – old habits are hard to break, and one imagines that as long as Dan D. can fit himself into a white jumpsuit, his Burning Love won’t die.