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Elvis' drummer brings King's beat to Hagerstown

August 08, 2009|By ERIN JULIUS

HAGERSTOWN -- Someone watching Saturday's show at The Maryland Theatre might have mistaken the performer for Elvis Presley himself, were it not for the modern glow of the cell phones and digital cameras in the audience.

Chris MacDonald's tribute to Elvis included one real connection to the King himself: drummer D.J. Fontana.

"D.J. helped make that early sound Elvis had," MacDonald said as he introduced Fontana, who was inducted April 4 into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

"He was the beat behind the King," MacDonald said.

Fontana was on drums for several songs, starting with "Don't Be Cruel." He also was featured on "Jailhouse Rock." Fontana created the unmistakable rhythmic opening to that song, MacDonald said.

Nancy Bruno of Blue Ridge Summit, Pa., loves Elvis, she said.

"It reminds me of a fun time," she said.

A group of women wearing summer dresses was excited for the front-row seats to Saturday's show.

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Ann Jacobs of Martinsburg, W.Va., called MacDonald, "the best Elvis impersonator I've seen."

She's been an Elvis fan since she was a girl, Jacobs said.

"This makes an old woman feel young again," she said.

Her friend, Reva Montoro, had one word for Elvis's music.

"Sexy," she said.

Their friend, Pat Sensel, didn't know Elvis' drummer would be performing until her friends told her moments before the show. That made her even more excited, she said.

Elvis music, "makes you move, makes you rock," she said.

Barbara Chase wore an Elvis T-shirt for the occasion. She has visited Elvis' home, Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tenn., and seen Fontana perform on TV, she said.

Sherri Martak of Baltimore is Fontana's stepdaughter. She had only seen him perform once before, in April at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Fontana tells stories about his time with Elvis and has performed with other musicians, including Paul McCartney. He's also friends with the Rolling Stones, Martak said.

Fontana plays with a lot of Elvis tribute artists and he sounds just like he did in the 1950s, his wife, Karen Fontana, said.

D.J. Fontana does share stories from his time with Elvis, Karen Fontana said. He remembers when Lisa Marie Presley was born. Fontana and others went to see Elvis after the birth. Elvis was upstairs, and when Fontana went to find him, he saw the King rocking the newborn, Karen Fontana said.

Saturday's show rocked in a different way, with women occasionally jumping to their feet and screaming at the stage. MacDonald dropped to one knee and sang to the audience during his rendition of "Are You Lonesome Tonight?"

During "Can't Help Falling in Love," MacDonald hung Hawaiian leis around the necks of women who rushed to the stage.

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