Minister gets all shook up playing Elvis

TONGANOXIE — The Rev. Francis Stockton loves to sing and has been a devoted minister in the United Methodist Church for nearly three decades.

But on occasion he slips into a jumpsuit and clowns around as Elvis Presley.

"I'm not an Elvis impersonator," he said. "That's people paying tribute to him. I have a clown character based on Elvis. What I do is clowning."

For the past 17 years, Stockton, who is pastor at Tonganoxie United Methodist Church, has figuratively put on his blue suede shoes and transformed into Elvis. He said he averages five or six gigs a year.

It started in Ottawa when he was a pastor there.

During preparations for the annual citywide Christmas concert, someone mentioned they wished a vocalist would sing Presley's "Blue Christmas."

Stockton, who had played the guitar for years, said he could grant that wish.

Ottawa High School recently had performed "Jesus Christ Superstar," in which one character dressed as Elvis. Stockton borrowed an Elvis wig used in the play for his "Blue Christmas" performance and had a three-piece band accompanying him.

Before Elvis left the building that night, Stockton said, he had a handful of requests to perform at other functions.

Las Vegas might be the place for many Elvis impersonators, but Tonganoxie's Elvis limits his performances to nursing centers and retirement communities.

After finishing an array of Elvis' biggest hits in a recent performance, including "Return to Sender" and "Don't Be Cruel," Stockton performed "How Great Thou Art" and "Amazing Grace."

Being in costume allows him to break loose with those songs, too.

"Francis Stockton sings the hymns pretty straight," Stockton said. "Elvis, he feels them. A lot more emotion in the singing than Francis does. And that's satisfying to me.

"I wouldn't do it if I couldn't carry the gospel. It's just another way of bringing people together with Jesus."

On a recent Sunday, Stockton told his congregation about his upcoming gig. Parishioner Sue Nible decided she wanted to see her pastor perform his jester version of the King.

"It was entertaining for folks," Nible said. "He enjoys what he does.

"He's just a colorful character. He is a very good minister. He's a very good minister. He has a good sermon and he makes you think."