Kjell Henning Bjørnestad, better known as “Kjell Elvis,” was relishing his latest victory this week after setting a new world record for singing songs by his late idol, Elvis Presley, non-stop for more than 50 hours last weekend. “I’ll never do this again,” the conservative Bjørnestad said when it was all over.
Now age 52, he’s been impersonating Elvis Presley since 1988, when he was in the Norwegian military. He later underwent a round of plastic surgery to look even more like the iconic American singer, who died after a heart attack in 1977.
Norway’s Kjell Elvis first broke the world record for singing Elvis hits in August 2003, when he held forth at Vanse in Lista, Norway (known for its American-inspired culture imported by returning emigrants) for 26 hours, four minutes and 40 seconds. He then set another world record, just four months later, when he sang in Arendal (farther up Norway’s southern coast) for 40 hours, eight minutes and one second.
This time it took Bjørnestad more than 50 hours of impersonating Elvis, and it all began early in the morning last Thursday at a bar on Karl Johans Gate in Oslo.
Bjørnestad is originally from Farsund on Norway’s southwest coast, and later moved to Lyngdal, not far from Lista and in the heart of Norway’s Bible belt. He’s conservative and known for espousing Christian policies, which also were backed by Elvis himself despite a history of divorce and drug abuse.
Norway’s “Kjell Elvis” set the new world record at 3:11am on Saturday and could officially celebrate later when the Guinness Book of World Records confirmed his performance after exactly 50 hours, 50 minutes and 50 seconds of continual singing. At that point he was in still at the Scotsman Bar in Oslo, even though he’d grabbed media attention and fans while singing on the pedestrian street outside the same bar earlier in his Elvis marathon.
He was only allowed a five-minute break each hour, which could also be consolidated. His manager Helge Johansen said Kjell Elvis took a few 10-minute-long “power naps” and even manged to visit a barber shop while he kept on singing in a variation of Elvis’ signature white jump suit, which was always worn during his live concerts in Las Vegas and on tour in the 1970s.
Kjell Elvis broke the last record set by the German Elvis impersonator Thomas Gäthje 16 years ago. Gäthje sang Elvis songs for 43 hours, 11 minutes and 11 seconds, back in 2004.