by Carrie Steinweg
LANSING, Ill. (December 20, 2021) – The banquet hall at the Knights of Columbus was full of fans of the King of Rock and Roll on Friday night, December 17. Performing was Rick Saucedo, a longtime Elvis tribute artist who entertained the crowd with Elvis’ greatest hits. Saucedo dressed in clothing identical to what Elvis wore on stage, and he sported a head of jet black hair — and even sideburns. His voice was so similar that audience members felt like Elvis was still alive and right there in the building.
This was the Knights of Columbus Christmas show, an annual tradition since 2015, with the exception of last year when the pandemic caused the show to be canceled. This year’s show was held on Friday, December 17, at the newly remodeled banquet hall.
Saucedo’s early days
Saucedo grew up in Chicago watching Elvis movies in the 1960s and imitating his voice and moves. At 17, he started performing as Elvis in nightclubs and bars around Chicago. Saucedo is now in his 50th year of performing the music of Elvis Presley.
Lynne Cartwright of Lansing remembers going to see Saucedo in his early days on stage. The first time she saw him singing as the King was around 1974. Elvis Presley died in 1977.
“This show is awesome,” said Cartwright. “I used to see him a long, long time ago at Field’s Supper Club. He was just a kid then. My husband was a fan and follower and we’d go see him play in the area.”
During the show, Cartwright presented Saucedo with a rose and told him she used to see him play at Field’s Supper Club. “I outlived that building,” he said to the crowd. “It’s not there anymore. They tore it down. A lot of clubs I’ve played at are no longer there.”
After forming a band called the Ambassadors, Saucedo got a role playing Elvis in the 1978 Broadway musical Elvis: The Legend Lives. He played with the Jordanaires, Elvis’ original dummer, D. J. Fontana, and original backup vocalist Millie Kirkham. Saucedo has been credited as one of the original Elvis tribute artists, having begun professionally in 1972. He is still considered one of the top Elvis tribute artists in the country and has continued to perform Elvis’ music for five decades. He is a skilled songwriter and musician who plays several instruments.
Planning Saucedo’s return
During the two sets of his show, Saucedo played a variety of music, but with a concentration on Elvis’ biggest hits – songs like All Shook Up, Viva Las Vegas, In the Ghetto, Suspicious Minds, and Teddy Bear. His holiday music choices included Winter Wonderland, Silver Bells, Silent Night, Blue Christmas, White Christmas, and Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me. Saucedo also did a few songs made famous by others — including Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline — and he performed a couple original songs. One was a lively song called Happy Birthday to You that he sang to two audience members who were celebrating birthdays. He also dedicated Elvis’ signature love song, I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You, to a couple in the audience celebrating their 58th wedding anniversary.
Mike Kabala, chairperson of the Christmas show and Past Grand Knight of the Lansing Knights of Columbus Council 3540, organized the event. “I’m the chairperson, but I do this with a lot of help from the girls in the office,” said Kabala. “I put my heart and soul into this. I love Lansing, and I’ve lived here all my life.”
Saucedo was the entertainment for the K of C’s first Christmas show in 2015. Since then there have been other tribute artists and local entertainers, but for this first concert back following the pandemic, Kabala wanted to make sure he booked Saucedo, who is always a big crowd-pleaser. “I wanted to start back up with him. The first time he was here we sold 330 tickets,” said Kabala. In a normal year, Saucedo likely would have been able to easily fill the place to capacity again, but Kabala decided to cap it at 240 to keep the crowd smaller and not pack people in more closely.
Kabala noted that Saucedo has often performed with a live band, but in keeping things downsized because of the pandemic, he sang his show with recorded music and backing vocals.
“I spoke to [Saucedo’s] wife as I was finalizing the show,” said Kabala. “I asked her if she thought he had any plans to retire, and she said, ‘No, he’ll never retire.’” That’s good news for Kabala, who is quite a fan himself. “I must have seen him 50 times or more over the years,” he said.
The Christmas show
Throughout the room were longtime fans of Elvis, donning shirts with his image and mouthing every word along with Saucedo. Vaughn Lagestee of South Holland wore a bowling-style shirt with Elvis on it. “I started listening to him when I was just this high,” he said, holding his hand very low to the ground.
“He puts on a good show,” said Dan Schroeder, a Knight of Columbus and former Lansing resident who now lives in Schererville. Schroeder’s wife Kathleen is a big fan and said they’d seen Saucedo perform in the past. “He’s very good and he’s so entertaining,” she said.
At the show, a 50/50 raffle netted some funds that Kabala said would be used for their brother Knights in need. There were also baskets that were raffled off with the table manned by Knight Tom Lessner of Calumet City (a past treasurer) and Tom Cipich of South Holland (a past Grand Knight). Part of the proceeds of raffle ticket sales will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
The show followed a dinner buffet with food prepared by the hall’s new caterer, The Cookout. It was also announced during the show that the restaurant would be re-opening in January after a long closure.
Saucedo came out for his first set dressed in Elvis’ signature rhinestone-studded white jumpsuit. After intermission he came out in a red blazer, white shirt, and black slacks, which he said was his Christmas outfit. Throughout the show, he brought all the moves Elvis was known for – the curled lip, the shaky leg, the swaying arms, and the swirling hips.
Saucedo will be closing out the year with a New Year’s Eve show in Midlothian. Information on future shows can be found at ricksaucedo.com.