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29 October 2014

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Music Feature

Paul Douglas as Elton John
Paul Douglas as Elton John

Is that really Elton John?

The Rocket Man enjoys a jet-set lifestyle with homes all over the world. If you live in west Norfolk you could be forgiven for thinking Elton has bought a home in the county when tribute act Paul Douglas passes by.

This summer, Norfolk is host to a glittering line-up of stars from the world of rock, pop and classical music.

The open-air concert series kicks off with a performance by Elton John at Carrow Road, but whilst tickets to see the Rocket Man are selling faster than, rockets - for people in west Norfolk, seeing Elton John is nothing new.

Norfolk, it seems, has been home to its own version of Elton John for some time - in the form of tribute act Paul Douglas from Downham Market, who's been performing professionally for more than 30 years.

Becoming Elton John

"I'm on what's called the Stars In Their Eyes circuit and some acts are harder to sell than others, it doesn't matter how good or bad you are. Elton is quite a difficult one," said Paul.

"When I got to start doing it about eight years ago, a friend of mine who does Tina Turner said 'do Elton'.

"I spent £10,000 on setting the show up, getting a big white grand piano and everything else and then as soon as I started doing some work she said 'it's very difficult to sell Elton'. I thought great, but it's worked out OK.

"The Elton tribute is about 70 per cent of the musical part of my life. There's always a song that you'll recognise. I've been doing it for a living for 32 years and I still get nervous. I think once the nerves stop it's time to stop doing the job," he added.

Paul Douglas has never met Elton John, but he has performed for him.

"I played in a restaurant which is his favourite restaurant in London. He does keep himself to himself, but I did the gig and he sent a note to say 'Really, really good – well done'," said Paul.

Scary fans

Elton John on Parkinson
The real Elton stars on Parkinson

Paul admits the hardcore fans can be a bit scary.

"I get a bit scared of the obscure things from the early '70s and the fans get a bit annoyed with me sometimes. It would be impossible to learn the sort of material they want as you'd never play it and 99 per cent of the public wouldn't have heard of it," said Paul.

"My show is for the punters in the street. They like Elton, but they only like the hits. When you get to the hardcore fans they ask for the most obscure songs - some of them I haven't heard of myself."

Paul has lived in the county for about a year, having moved to the area from the Midlands. Norfolk may have become his base, but much of his time is spent performing in clubs around the country.

"I seem to have got onto a circuit the last few years and I seem to be stuck on it, particularly touring in the south and up in Blackpool," he said.

"The tribute bands on the Stars In Their Eyes circuit are great, but some of them take it a bit too seriously.

"At the end of the day you're doing an impersonation and you're doing it to the best of your ability, but when you come off stage it's time to come out of the character," he added.

Elton John performs at Carrow Road on Sunday 29 May, 2005.

last updated: 08/03/05
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