Elvis Presley tribute artist Ryan Pelton didn’t grow up with dreams of stardom.
The performer, who took the Legends In Concert stage for six years as the house Elvis when the show was in Surfside Beach, returns to the Grand Strand this week as a headliner during the Myrtle Beach Elvis Festival.
He began impersonating the King on a dare.
“I’m, by trade, a computer geek,” he said, spending the early part of his career building websites. “I never sang karaoke in my life. I was kind of shy.”
People always told Pelton he looked like Presley, from the time he was 14 years old, even earning the nickname Elvis while in the Marine Corps.
“It kind of found me. I wasn’t really looking for it,” the performer said. “ I got a dare from my mother of all people.”
Pelton’s mother faxed an entry form for an Elvis contest to him at work. He had one week to prepare.
“At this point in time, I didn’t even know an Elvis song,” he said.
He started his studies with the documentary “Elvis ‘56,” which he rented from Blockbuster Video, and bought a white sports coat from Goodwill and got to work.
“I ended up winning this contest,” he said. “it was so eye-opening. I had never in my life felt that adrenaline rush from being onstage. I knew I could be relevant in that business.”
Shortly after winning his first contest, “bookings just started rolling in,” he said. Pelton had to make a choice between performing and working in the computer business.
He chose life on the stage, booking a full-time gig in a Gulf Coast show called “Pure Gold,” performing 14 shows a week.
“It was through that experience that I got my first audition with Legends In Concert,” Pelton said.
The singer describes LIC as “the grad school of this world.”
“Legends In Concert really developed me into the entertainer I was to become,” he said. “Without that experience, I wouldn’t be able to do what I’ve done since.”
After his stint at LIC in Myrtle Beach, Pelton toured the country with his band and later went on to star in the film “The Identical” with Ashley Judd and Seth Green (under stage name Blake Rayne).
“What started out as a dare led to me starring in my first Hollywood movie,” Pelton said.
Pelton will perform this week as part of the Myrtle Beach Elvis Festival, running April 27-30 at Legends In Concert.
Pelton describes his Elvis as an extension of himself.
“Rather than go out there and try to be a robot of Elvis Presley, you’re almost being yourself in a way that Elvis may have done something,” he said.
Pelton, who won the competition last week, will perform on Saturday night alongside tributes Travis Powell, Austin Irby and Cote Deonath, backed by the Change of Habit Tribute Band. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Pelton encourages locals and visitors, both casual Elvis fans and diehards, to check out the festival for a one-of-a-kind experience.
“You get to see 10 different variations of the same original product,” he said. “Find your favorite and try to guess who’s going to win. Everyone gets a little wild and crazy and has fun.”
For more information on the festival and a full schedule of events, visit myrtlebeachelvisfestival.com.
In addition to his festival performance, Pelton will return to the Legends In Concert show in the fall for 10 weeks, from Aug. 21 to Oct. 30.
The performer looks forward to his return to the Grand Strand.
“There’s a kind of easiness to the whole vibe down there,” he said. “It’s almost like going back to school. You get to work on new things in your craft.”
For more information on Legends In Concert Myrtle Beach, visit legendsinconcert.com/myrtle-beach.