A BRIEF BIOGRAPHY
26th. February 1945 - 13th. December 1998
The story of Orion, the singer whose voice bears an incredible likeness to that of Elvis Presley, is an interesting and unusual one to say the least. The name Orion was borrowed from a book about a very famous but unhappy singer who faked his death in a desperate bid to escape from the restrictive lifestyle his fame had brought him. The novel's author Gail Brewer-Giorgio had written the story before she heard about the death of Elvis Presley in 1977. In 1979, she received a telephone call from a man whose speaking voice sounded remarkably like Elvis. The caller apparently stated that he was Orion.
Jimmy Bell Ellis had recorded a single on the Dradco label which it seems made little, if any, impact. He also recorded two songs at Sun Records in 1972, That’s All Right and Blue Moon Of Kentucky. The same two songs featured on Elvis' first record which was also released on the Sun label. Jimmy's’ single was issued initially with no artist credit on either of the labels and he went on to record more songs with various small labels before later returning and signing with Sun Records in 1978, a few months after the death of Elvis in August of the previous year. The Sun label issued Save The Last Dance For Me, with Jimmy's voice dubbed into an original Jerry Lee Lewis archive recording. Credited to Jerry Lee Lewis and Friend the song entered the U.S. charts and caused quite a stir among critics and music lovers alike as they feverishly tried to guess the singer's true identity. Sun followed up the successful single with the original pairing plus more overdubbed tracks on a long playing album, Duets, credited to Jerry Lee Lewis & Friends, although not all the tracks included on the album featured the Ellis/Elvis voice. Everyone was convinced the mysterious voice on the album was that of "The King" himself, Elvis. Even Elvis' own record label, RCA, were reported to have had their doubts and sought legal advice.
As the book by Gail Brewer-Giorgio was about to hit the bookstores, Sun Records launched a unique advertising campaign to tie in the fictional singer Orion from Brewer-Giorgo's novel with their mysterious unamed singer. A fictional life story was built around the performer by taking places and characters from the book and associating them with the real life Orion (Jimmy Ellis) of the Sun recordings. The late Shelby Singleton, owner of Sun Records, devised the idea of their Orion wearing a mask when seen or performing in public, in a bid to perpetuate the myth that Elvis had faked his own death but was still performing in public. Following the first solo single release coupling the John D. Loudermilk composed song, Ebony Eyes (best known as an Everly Brothers hit) and the Bobby Goldsboro hit Honey, the first Orion solo album Reborn was soon issued by Sun, followed by several more titles including Sunrise, Country, Rockabilly and Glory with each cover sleeve displaying close up shots of the masked man. Several Sun singles were released from said LP's, each featuring the voice of the mysterious masked performer and making an impression on the lower part of the U.S. charts. The last 45 to manage into a chart placing, again in the lower regions, was the double A-side Morning, Noon And Night backed with Honky Tonk Heaven.
By around 1983 Jimmy had begun to lose interest in his Orion persona and, having become disillusioned by his recording career, decided to take control and make some changes. Wishing to be recognised as a talented performer in his own right and not as an impersonator attempting to step into the shoes of the late King of rock'n'roll, he said goodbye to Sun Records and publicly removed his trademark sequined mask before a crowd of eager followers at a live concert. However major success and recognition still eluded him and, finding no greater success without the mask, he decided to wear it again a few years later. An attempt to change his name to Ellis James and switch record labels in the latter part of his career also met with little success.
Jimmy had always, while attempting for self recognition, insisted he was not a Presley impersonator but rather someone who had been blessed, or cursed, with a similiar voice to an instantly recognisable performer. The voice, unfortunately, was his own and, despite several attempts at other musical styles, he found he could do very little to alter it.
In total Orion recorded 11 long playing albums on Sun Records. The final album released in his lifetime, New Beginnings on Aron Records of Canada, was issued in 1989. Jimmy/Orion continued to have a strong base of loyal fans and carried on performing all over the U.S.A. up until his tragic death in a robbery/shooting incident on December 13th. 1998 in his hometown of Selma, Alabama.