Ben Klein wasn't into Elvis Presley's music growing up.
He favored Christian rock, pop and the alternative music that flooded the airwaves in the '90s.
But then he gave his father -- who had a small Elvis tribute act in his younger days -- a greatest hits compilation as a birthday gift. Klein borrowed it and fell in love with the soulful sound.
That was about a decade ago. Now, it's the center of his professional life.
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The 31-year-old from Spokane travels the country and world as an Elvis tribute artist. He's visited the Tri-Cities a few times, and will perform a holiday show at 7:30 p.m. Dec. 20 at the Red Lion Hotel in Kennewick.
"The Wonderful World of Christmas with Elvis" will include a mix of Elvis classics and holiday songs. Klein said he'll sing tunes from Blue Christmas to Don't Be Cruel to Silent Night.
Mid-Columbia Musical Theatre is putting on the show as a fundraiser. Jo Brodzinski, the producer/director, said show-goers can expect a simple yet heartfelt event, with hot-buttered rum and gingerbread cookies for sale.
"It's a really fun thing to do around Christmas," she said.
Klein, who's won awards for his Elvis act, said he admires the passion the late artist brought to his music. Presley was an all-around performer, with the talent and charisma to capture hearts, he said.
"He had all of it," Klein told the Herald in a phone interview while traveling in Canada. "There aren't that many people who have all of those things together -- and he did."
Klein's favorite Elvis tune is Peace in the Valley, a gospel number the singer recorded in the '50s. He plans to perform it during the Tri-City show.
Though Klein has made up for the time he lost not listening to Presley's songs growing up, he doesn't keep the singer's music on rotation during his off hours. It's too easy to "study" instead of relax, he said -- constantly thinking about how to sound and move more like Elvis.
Still, Klein loves Presley's music and feels a connection to the man.
"I've been doing it for a long time. I enjoy it. It's a lot of fun. I feel very privileged to be able to tribute such a legend," Klein said. "Elvis was not just anybody. He was the undisputed -- they call him the 'King of Rock and Roll.' He didn't like that. He said Jesus Christ is the only true king.
"But he did -- he really changed music," Klein said.
Tickets cost $10. They're available at http://rloc.tix.com; at the Tri-Cities Academy of Ballet and Music, 21 Aaron Drive, Richland; and with cash or check only at the door.
The Kennewick Red Lion is at 1101 N. Columbia Center Blvd.
*Sara Schilling: 582-1529; firstname.lastname@example.org