Ted Prior, a Galloway Township musician and longtime Elvis performer whose natural sideburns, meticulously combed hair and glitzy costumes graced local parades, stages and fundraisers, died Sunday, his manager and friend Neil Regina said.
Prior, 68, was diagnosed with brain cancer in the fall of 2010.
He fulfilled several performance commitments at area schools and nursing homes, but the chemotherapy and radiation treatments left him too weak to continue. He had to cancel one of his last gigs-Ocean City’s First Night festival, where he had performed for years.
“He was a true South Jersey character that people loved and he had a great many fans in this area, including me,” said Mark Soifer, an Ocean City spokesman and a friend.
Prior was imitating The King’s style long before Elvis impersonators became synonymous with the hip-swinging, Las Vegas-style performances.
Born and raised in Atlantic City, Prior’s first public Elvis performance was in 1957, when he was a freshman at Atlantic City High School, he recalled in a March 1997 interview with The Press.
His uncle had given him an inexpensive guitar, and Prior sang at a party. A friend told him he sounded like Elvis, he recalled.
A career was born.
“I can’t remember not being Elvis,” Prior said in a September 2010 article in The Press.
Preferring to be called an Elvis performer to an impersonator, Prior entertained professionally for more than 35 years, starting his Elvis routine when the King of Rock and Roll was still alive.
Beside his musical career, Prior drove limousines for years, including for the Tropicana Casino and Resort, where he ferried high-rollers and casino patrons. The worlds of limousine driver and Elvis performer sometimes met.
Once, while driving a family to Maryland, Prior sang a series of Elvis songs, he told The Press in 1997.
“But like I told them, ‘I’ll do it, but you can’t get the full effect of it here. Because up on stage, I do a lot of punches and moves that I can’t do in the front seat of this car,’“ Prior said at the time.
Soifer said Prior became very involved in Ocean City, volunteering much of his time on the stage and off, Soifer said.
His Elvis personage was spotted at baby parades, Halloween parades, Miss New Jersey parades and Ocean City’s annual Doo Dah Parade.
“We could never replace him. We’re not going to have another Elvis performer in deference to him,” Soifer said. “He was very valuable in a lot of ways people don’t know, and he was very generous. He was a big asset to Ocean City.”
A talented musician and guitar player, Prior also played rock and roll and folk music, although he truly relished the Elvis role, Soifer said.
“He’d be walking down the street, and people would yell out the window, ‘Hey Elvis, how you doing Elvis,’“ Soifer said.
Prior’s death was announced on his Facebook page, where friends and fans posted remembrances and condolences Sunday.
Regina, in announcing Prior’s death, wrote, “The stars in heaven will be much brighter and the music in Rock & Roll heaven will be much sweeter with him on lead vocal.”
On his Facebook page, Prior had listed only one favorite quotation.
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