NEW BERLIN — In honor of Nurses’ Week, Donald Brown performed as Elvis at Chase Memorial Nursing Home in New Berlin.
Nurses, staff and approximately 50 Chase Memorial Nursing Home residents were amongst the audience along with the New Berlin Mayor Peter Lennon, his wife Elaine and local resident and Broadway actor Jeff Keller and his wife Andreia.
One resident said Elvis is her favorite and she was really excited he was there. She brought her yellow glasses and let another resident wear them before the show. A staff member said she loved Elvis songs.
Brown said, “I look at my wig, mascara, I'm all suited in rhinestones and my big belt and I sometimes say to myself, what the heck am I doing. But I do this because people get something out of it. I like to interact with the crowd, hand out scarves and even make a few mistakes as Elvis did on stage too.”
His outfit also includes white patent leather shoes, scarves, and replicas of the onyx and horseshoe rings Elvis wore to many shows.
The background instrumentals were turned on and the audience became quiet.
Elvis entered the room in a fully bedazzled white jumpsuit, grabbed his guitar and belted out “CC Rider”. He faked strumming the guitar and sometimes not. The audience laughed and clapped. The next song, “Burning Love” brought more clapping and a lot of swaying from the residents.
Brown continued signing non stop Elvis songs such as: Hound Dog, Blue Suede Shoes, Jailhouse Rock, Rolling on the River, Suspicious Minds, and Can't Help Falling in Love. He worked the crowd, handing out scarves and kisses to many of the Chase residents.
The staff and residents were clapping, cheering, laughing and singing along throughout the hour show. When it was over and after the last song sung, smiles were on every residents face with continual loud clapping and then, as history states, “Elvis had left the building.”
Many residents were thrilled to have received a scarf and a kiss from Elvis (Donald Brown).
Brown said, “It basically all started one night when he and a group of friends went to Karaoke. I was not a singer, I know music very well but I never sang in front of anyone. My friends signed me up without telling me, they were in chorus and were up there doing Karaoke but little did I know, they put my name on the list. The DJ called me up and as much as I didn’t want to go up and sing, I went up and gave it my all.
They had picked an Elvis song, “In the Ghetto.” I did well enough, the entire crowd said I sounded just like Elvis, and asked me to continue signing a few more of his songs.”
“As time went on we would stop in at a few other Karaoke places and there was a certain Karaoke circuit that follows their favorite establishments and when I would walk in they would say, “Oh, Elvis is here. It sort of just started out with me going out and getting used to signing in front of people,” he added.
Brown explained that his mom was a big Elvis fan and he grew up listening to Elvis. He said he feels that it's beautiful music and that he has evolved with the music as at one time he wasn’t really a fan of the gospel but as he’s gotten older, he’s come to like it more.
“I've been singing Elvis and doing shows for about twelve years now.” said Brown.
Donald Brown is more than an Elvis Impersonator. He is an executive with Chobani and can be seen at many events handing out yogurt. He volunteered for Earth Day Clean Up in New Berlin, lead a team and also brought Chobani refreshments. He also takes yogurt to the YMCA, volunteers for Chobani in the Park and delivered Chobani during COVID, to NJ and NYC flood/natural disaster victims, and delivered to NJ Ft. Dix Afghan and Ukrainian immigrants.
Originally from Little Falls, his family moved to Waterville when he was four but said he feels like Norwich and New Berlin are more his home than where he lives because he spends so much time in both communities.
He explained Chobani and Elvis events are completely separate entities.
Brown said, “My mission is always to give back, do stuff in the community, to be a part of the community because that’s how I feel and believe we all can survive with a community spirit.”
Chase Memorial Nursing Facility founded in New Berlin by local resident Minnie Mary Chase and has for many years set the standard for Long Term Care with skilled nursing in New York State and the nation.
Chase was also the facility where the Eden Alternative was created. The Eden project brought children, pets, and plants into the facility to create a home-like environment for the residents.