Elvis impersonator keeps the King’s memory alive in Pahrump

Sadness reigns over the loss of superstar Elvis Presley 40 years ago today, but Pahrump resident and Elvis impersonator Johnny V works hard to make local crowds happy.

This past Friday, as the world prepared to remember Presley, Johnny V performed some of the “King’s” greatest hits such as “Teddy Bear” and an “American Trilogy” in front of a group of local senior citizens.

Residents of the Inspirations Senior Living center at 901 Honeysuckle St. screamed, cried and danced through Johnny V’s 90-minute set on Aug. 11—five days before the singer passed away four decades prior on Aug. 16, 1977 in Memphis.

“I like his music. I like to bring back the memory, and I like to please the crowd,” Johnny V said. “I enjoy it, and a lot of people enjoy it … Seems like everybody has a good time, and it gets them away from their thoughts or troubles.”

The crowd of more than two dozen residents and staff do enjoy Johnny V’s music.

A resident of Inspirations commented that Johnny V was a good performer. The Johnny V fan also said his giving away of teddy bears, during his singing of Elvis’ “Teddy Bear,” really means a lot to some of the girls at Inspirations.

Johnny V, whose real name is Johnny Verhagen, has been performing for more than two decades as an Elvis impersonator. The walls at his home in Comstock Park, off Highway 372, are plastered with old newspaper clippings and other pieces of memorabilia of his travels as an impersonator.

The local entertainer has been across many parts of the U.S., including New York and Las Vegas, where he’s done private parties and other performances. But he’s also traveled internationally to Canada and as far as Japan.

Johnny V said Elvis would have been 82 as of Jan. 8 if he was still alive, as he pointed to various shows he’d performed over the years on the wall. Elvis was born in 1935.

Vegas roots

Johnny V got his start not too far away, at Ellis Island hotel-casino in Las Vegas, where he sang Elvis’ “Teddy Bear” in a karaoke performance.

Johnny V remembers all the girls screaming and other Elvis impersonators saying he did a good job, and one of them loaned him their Elvis costume to do gigs with.

One of his first gigs was a wedding, where he made $50.

Since then, he’s done a countless number of shows. This year, Johnny V said he’s done between 30 and 40 performances—calling it a slow year, despite the 40th anniversary of Elvis’ death.

He has also picked up a lot of gear over the years. During his performance at Inspirations, he wore the Burning Love suit—a replica of the one Elvis wore in the early 1970s.

According to the website vintag.es, the suit’s nickname came from it being on the cover of Elvis’ 1972 single Burning Love. Johnny V owns about a half-dozen suits, including one made out of all leather.

Local ties

Johnny V hasn’t always worked alone on his travels, and that includes for local shows.

Over the years he’s worked with the Silver Tappers and the Nye County Starlets — a group of 50-plus ladies that travel around Nevada. The group gives its proceeds it collects from shows to charity.

He’s also gotten a lot of media attention over the years, he said.

Johnny V remembers one article stating, “Elvis has come to Pahrump.”

Johnny V also works to spread another message at his performances.

“I get an opportunity to talk about the Lord,” he said. ‘That’s the one thing I live for is Jesus Christ.”

Johnny V is an ordained pastor and has ties with Heritage Bible Church at 3061 E. Heritage Drive in Pahrump.

Over the years, he’s also performed an all-gospel version of his show at the Heritage Bible Church.

He said he is planning one in the future, but a date has yet to be set.

Johnny V, 74, plans to retire, but he had that plan before.

“I enjoy it, and I’m getting older, and I probably will be quitting it shortly,” he said. “I tried to quit about five years ago, and it didn’t work.”

Contact reporter Jeffrey Meehan at jmeehan@pvtimes.com. On Twitter: @pvtimes