There are myriad acts paying homage to Sir Elton. But few lead vocalists can say that their spouses are their production managers and costumiers. And it's rare to have been asked to participate in an official EJ project. Rus Anderson, the musician behind The Rocket Man Show, filled Eltonjohnworld.com on the details. . .
''From the beginning!
I moved to Clearwater, Florida from Scotland in 2003 at age 23 and attended St Petersburg College.
''Growing up in Scotland, I used to travel around the pubs and clubs with my dad who was a very popular cabaret musician. This got me into music from a very young age and I picked up the piano at around 4 after he bought me a little Casio keyboard for Christmas. I, like many a kid who picks up piano, loved Elton's songs. My dad had an original copy of the 'Don't Shoot Me' album & I had it memorised by age five! My absolute favourite song is Daniel. I became an Elton fanatic.
''Through my teens until I left Scotland, I was in many original and rock bands in Glasgow, including a great band called Surround who worked withVirgin and played all over Britain. I was always lead singer.
''When I arrived in the States, I rented a keyboard and PA and started playing Top 40 gigs up and down the beaches here in Tampa. I never did anything serious with original music. That first summer I met my now wife, Somali Rose, who was an actor in local theater production and we hit it off straight away. She is from Secaucus, New Jersey, but had moved to Florida a few years earlier. We were married in 2007.
''In 2009, we brainstormed the idea of putting together a local tribute to Elton John, with basic costumes and greatest hits. I had been told many a time that I resembled and played like a younger Elton, but I'd never really thought more of it until then. Local media picked up the one-off show called 'The Rocket Man Show' at a small jazz bar in Indian Rocks Beach and it sold out in one day. We announced a second, then a third in quick succession which all were incredible. Since then we have just focused 100% on making it bigger, more accurate, more colourful and flamboyant. We added a full band which then opened doors to much bigger venues & it just grew from there. Since 2011 I have been full time as Elton. I have played in over 30 states at every type of venue imaginable. As a kid, I never imagined I'd get to travel all over America performing.
''I attended my very first Elton concert in 2014 at Caesars Palace in Vegas. I was in awe at how intricate it was, not only musically but visually. Of course, Elton is simply magnificent live. After that show, I came back to Florida and said "okay, this needs to be not only good, it needs to be the best." Somali and I designed a whole new visual & dynamic show. I'm lucky because not only is my wife now my production manager, she is also my costumer! She makes all my outfits from beginning to end. We try and pick a new one to make every month or two. It is not an easy process. We have to research many photos and videos from the 70's and 80's, try to source the materials & then figure out the patterns. It's certainly not a simple task trying to replicate items from such legendary designers as Bob Mackie!
''When I walk out on stage I want the audience to be in awe before we even play our first song.
''Fast forward to July 2017. I was doing a 6-week run in Harrah's Atlantic City. Before one of our matinees, I was sitting backstage and I received an email from 'The Office Of Elton John'! They were asking if I'd like to be involved in something special.... At first I thought it was a joke but it wasn't. My friend Steve McCoy who is a Tom Jones tribute act in Vegas is a prankster and I really thought it was him! Apparently the office were planning a very top secret project to be announced in Jan 2019. They needed someone to play a young Elton for some photos and videos and the man himself had picked me to do it! I can't describe how it felt at the time except I was terrified. Terrified at how big of a responsibility I now had, to make him proud. I later found out that someone in his office in London had heard of my live act and when this project was being planned they showed my Web
site to his producers and management, including Tony King and David Furnish who, in turn showed it to Elton. He had the final say!
''They sent producers and directors out to my Atlantic City hotel room and we did several days of choreography, rehearsing and planning.
''I was told that we would be recreating moments of his career in HD & Virtual Reality to be used in his Farewell Yellow Brick Road world tour. We were to shoot scenes from Dodger Stadium in 1975, his first ever US performance at the Troubadour in 1970 and a few more 'surreal' moments including a spaceman floating thru space!
''My wife Somali was obviously thrilled and in just as much awe as I was at this whole thing. It got even more exciting for her when she was asked to make the iconic costumes for the shoot. She was actually getting to hand make costumes for an official Elton John project - from scratch! I'm really lucky to have costumes that accurate - so much so even Elton okay'd them. I use them all in my live shows.
''They brought me to Hollywood in August 2017 and we spent a week filming in a huge movie studio, where they had full stages built exactly the same as the original concerts. They also had many actors and musicians to play the various people involved in the concerts as they happened. Even the roadies!
''It was such an amazing experience. For Dodger Stadium we did so many takes with many different camera angles etc. I had a great time running around the stage being a rock & roller. The Troubadour was very different. I had to be very quiet, shy and unassuming for that. I actually started crying when I sat at the piano. Here I was recreating the very first moment Elton performed in America. The whole adventure had been a whirlwind up til now, but it was at this moment I truly realised the importance of what I was doing. I thought 'my Idol has hired me to recreate for all eternity the most important moment of his career.' It was very emotional.
''I met Elton for the first time a few weeks later at David LaChapelle's studio in Hollywood. I was flown back out there for a photo shoot with my Dodgers costume, that's all I knew. I came out of hair & makeup to the set and met David LaChapelle whom of course I was familiar with. He does a lot with Elton so I figured it was something big. We were getting ready for photos in a hospital room set, then in walked Elton. He came right up to me and
said 'Hey Rus! From the Dodgers video! You're doing a great job young man!'
''I said 'Thank you so much for the opportunity, Sir Elton.'
'' It was a hilarious shoot. There was music blasting and fog machines. It was like a big party. We took many photos. We were in various poses - in one I was laying on a hospital bed hooked up to an IV and he was holding my hand. This is inside his Farewell Tour program! In another, we were in front of a wall in an alleyway with 'Farewell Yellow Brick Road' written on it and I'm sitting next to the dumpster! This is the one they use on the big screen before his concert starts from doors open to showtime! Keep an eye out for it at the shows!
''We also filmed me in the Troubadour costume playing live piano for an augmented reality experience which is used at certain events. You can sit next to Elton at the piano at the Troubadour gig. It's intense.
''When Elton announced his retirement in January 2017, my wife and I were at the event in Gotham Hall, New York, for it. They showed the full Virtual Reality promo video which launched the Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. It's a high-energy journey from 1970 'til now through Elton's eyes and is incredible.
''Meanwhile back onstage with The Rocket Man Show we have, since completing this project, been from coast to coast, bringing his early live magic to audiences of all ages, existing fans and new ones.
''We are an all-live 6 piece act. piano, bass, drums, guitar and backing singers. Typically our shows are 90 minutes to 2 hours long and we do mostly greatest hits, but also dive into some deep cuts regularly. I change costumes 3-4 times per show. I go from crazy chicken outfits to tuxedos and everywhere in between. I have a few original items of his but they are trinkets & non stage wear, so I don't wear any of them live - I leave the live costuming to Somali. One day I hope I can attend one of Elton's 'Out Of The Closet' sales!
''In 2019 I hope to be busier than ever. We are planning some international shows. It's truly an honour to perform Elton John's music for audiences and to see the joy on their faces. Not only am I a tribute act, I'm an Elton super fan, so I'm extra privileged to have met & worked with him, too. He is a remarkable human being and I love doing what I do. I have a ticket to his farewell tour in Florida, which I wouldn't miss for the world!
''My Web site has tons of fun stuff including videos, photos, schedule etc. It is:
''And here's the 2D version of the main VR video: