Elvis Presley Impersonation Inspired By Michael Landon, Billy Ray Cyrus Says

Elvis Presley has been gone for decades now, but his spirit lives on in his loyal fans and in his music and movies, inspiring people all over the world to dress and sing like him for shows, festivals, and clubs. His impersonators have ranged from tiny toddlers to men in their 60s, but they all have one thing in common: they love and respect the King. For Billy Ray Cyrus–who plays an Elvis impersonator on his new show–that respect was also tempered with inspiration from a surprising source: actor Michael Landon.

In Still The King, Cyrus plays a hard-luck Elvis lookalike who gets in trouble with police and is sentenced to help out around a church in the small town he was arrested in, leading to all sorts of shenanigans. And while he could have played it several different ways, Cyrus says he had a specific goal in mind when he was writing the character.

“It feels weird when I say this, but I kind of approach everything I do as, ‘How would Michael Landon play this?’ Just that sweet spirit that he had — the heart and soul that he’d approach anything with. You’ve to make sure that Vernon is a likable guy. You’ve got to be able to see his heart. The great news about Vernon is he’s a natural-born sinner, and he knows it. He also knows he’s good at it. Probably the best thing he’s good at is going downhill,” Cyrus said in a recent interview with Billboard.

Billy Ray says he was definitely inspired by Presley’s music when he was writing the show, but he didn’t even realize how much the show was seeping into other aspects of his life until he looked back at everything he’d written for his upcoming album, Thin Line. Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings, and Willie Nelson all had an influence on what he created, which he calls a “tip of a hat” to the old-school outlaw heroes.

As far as Billy’s famous family and friends making an appearance on the show, he says the future could hold anything in store, but for right now he’s just focusing on getting through the first season. Randy Travis has a cameo, and Miley Cyrus did come into writer’s meetings, but it was mostly just to tell them to pull her dad out of his comfort zone.

“She came in the writers room and talked about ideas and then she asked me to leave. I later heard that what she told them was, ‘No matter how bashful he may seem, make my dad drop his guard because he’s actually a very funny man, but he won’t let you see that. Make him go out of bounds.’ There’s a lot of her spirit from the meeting that I think resonated in the writers room,” Cyrus said.

The highly-anticipated show premieres on CMT tonight, and fans are eagerly awaiting the raucous comedy. While it may not be every Elvis fan’s cup of tea, fans of Billy Ray Cyrus and his acting career will likely get a kick out of it.

For Presley’s die-hard fans, the King is not only an inspiration musically, but in other ways as well. Susan Taluba made headlines recently when she revealed that she uses the icon to help get through the days. Taluba, who is disabled, says she loves his music and is an avid collector of Elvis memorabilia.

“I just love all of his singing, his concerts and his movies. I listen to his music every day and I watch his movies every day,” she said. “I’d like to get an Elvis watch.”

[Photo by Keystone/Getty Images]

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