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Paying tribute to early Elvis years
Jim Anderson and the Rebels perform during a concert at the Manteca Senior Center. - photo by HIME ROMERO


• WHAT: Jim Anderson & The Rebels
• WHEN: Sunday. Doors open at 5 p.m. Concert begins at 7 p.m.
• WHERE: Rookies Pub and Grill
• COST: $10

Jim Anderson turned  toward “Fingers” on the keyboard and let his legs shake, dipping his left knee as the music reached a crescendo.

The auditorium roared and bounced along with Anderson, who would continue to lose himself in the moment.

Snatching an old-school microphone in one hand,  the front man for Jim Anderson and the Rebels leaned into the crowd and early Elvis Presley lyrics.

As if on cue, a lock of hair fell off his brow and into his eyes.

“Whether I’m singing country, Kid Rock or Elvis, I’m the same. I rock out. I don’t hold still,” said Anderson, an early Elvis Presley tribute artist who will play a dinner show at Rookies Pub and Grill on Sunday evening.

“I’m not just a guy who stands there and holds a guitar, singing country music or anything like that. I’m having as much fun as the audience.”

For years, Anderson, a former law enforcement officer and youth football coach, performed in pain.

His knees were shot and worked over by countless surgeries, a product, he says, of a homicide foot pursuit gone awry in September of 2000.

In all, Anderson has had 10 surgeries on both knees, including a full replacement just three weeks ago.

“I’ve been in pain for so many years,” he said. “I’m excited to have that behind me now. I’m looking forward to not being in pain.”

Before, it was all part of the music-making process.

Anderson would medicate before shows, ice during the intermission and then fall into the arms of the Rebels after a show.

Someone would help him to his car and eventually into a recliner, where he would need at least 24-36 hours to recover from a 90-minute show.

The injuries and pain have forced Anderson to surrender much of his identity, or as he calls it  “hanging up hats.”

He retired as a law enforcement officer and later an academy instructor, and abandoned his post as a high school football coach.

“I had to give up a bunch of stuff because the pain was out of control. You can’t take medication and try to coach or try to teach law enforcement,” he said.

Anderson could grind through a set, though, but only because he feels indebted to a fan base that has followed him around Northern California and parts of Nevada.

“I could sing for the rest of my life. It’s not so much the money and fame,” he said. “I enjoy seeing people have a good time.”

Anderson helps keep an iconic musician relevant in today’s world – without losing himself in costume or wardrobe.

He is not an Elvis impersonator.

“I’ve seen some absolutely fantastic Elvis impersonators. I’ve been in awe,” Anderson said. “I went to an Elvis tribute show – the big one in Vegas. I went in with a pair of slacks, a shirt, my blonde hair and blue eyes, and no one knew I was part of the show.

“These guys spend a $1,000 on wigs. You know how much one of those jumpsuits cost? I watched them transform. It was awesome, but it’s not me.”

What Anderson does have is Presley’s natural sound and showmanship.

Rookies Entertainment Director Chris Creek first heard Jim Anderson and the Rebels at the San Joaquin County Fair last year, when the two shared a stage.

“If you weren’t looking at him, you’d swear you were hearing Elvis. Even talking to him face to face he sounds like Elvis in his regular speaking voice,” Creek said.

“He has his own personality. He doesn’t try to imitate Elvis, he just personifies him.”

Sunday’s show at Rookies may be Anderson’s biggest yet.

A veteran performer who began singing on a dare as a teenager, Anderson has something special in store for Sunday’s crowd.

He and the Rebels will record a live album, which he hopes to release in May or shortly thereafter.

Anderson said he couldn’t pass up the opportunity. Creek has revitalized Rookies’ reputation as a live music venue and that includes a new sound system with the ability to capture live performance.

“We have the opportunity to record a really good live album, why not do it in my hometown? I think that’s going to be cool,” Anderson said.

And for once, he’ll bounce and dance and command a stage without pain.

“I’m looking forward to enjoying those 90 minutes,” he said, “in my mind as much as my heart.”