The story of Jimmy Orion Ellis is one of the more tragic and bizarre tales in Music City history. The phantom King of Rock n Roll, Ellis, known by his stage name Orion, bore an uncanny resemblance to Elvis Presley, both in his pompadoured appearance and in his bellowing singing and speaking voice. This became an asset to Ellis in the wake of Presley dying while dropping a Graceland-sized deuce in 1977, and then it became a curse.
In 1979, Ellis was discovered by Nashville producer and industry mogul Shelby Singleton, who bought rights to the Sun Records catalog from Sam Phillips in the late 60s. Sun singed Ellis, gave him the stage name Orion and crowned him a second-string king of rock n roll, effectively making him the face of the Elvis Lives phenomenon of the late 70s and early 80s. Except, like a hip-shakin proto-Buckethead, Orion milked mystique and shrouded his true identity with a mask, fueling the fantasies of many an Elvis fan that he might indeed be the King incognito.
In the process, Ellis went on to tour theaters and release a handful of Presley-esque singles and albums that did moderately well on the country charts, in addition to lending his voice to archived Sun cuts by Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Charlie Rich. In the mid-’80s Ellis took off the mask and tried to parlay that success into a career as a country and rockabilly singer in his own right, but Elvis shadow and the fact that the natural timbre of Ellis voice so closely resembled that of The King was ultimately insurmountable.
Tragically, Ellis ended up in Alabama, where he owned and operated a pawn shop, and where an armed robber shot and killed him and his ex-wife in 1998.
Now, British filmmaker Jeanie Finlay is trying to tell Ellis strange, almost forgotten story with a documentary called Orion: The Man Who Would Be King. Finlay has launched a campaign on crowd-funding site Indiegogo to raise the money needed to finish the film. Check out the trailer/directors plea for post-production fees above. Donation options range from $10-$5,000 and include incentives ranging from a DVDs to original Orion 8-track cartridges and Hatch Show Print posters, all the way up to associate producer creds on IMDB.