NOTE: Janice would like to publicly thank Bobby Lowell for all his help. Bobby has been a real factor in Janice's past and current career success. jody God bless him.
When six-year-old Janice Kucera was supposed to be practicing her accordion, she would toss it down and grab her daddy's guitar instead. Before long she and her sister Fran were singing harmony and playing double rhythm guitars for all the local functions as a duo known Jan and Fran. Fran leaned toward country-western, while Janice leaned toward Rock and Roll and Elvis!
The first time she sang like Elvis, Janice was walking out to the barn. "It was lightly drizzling and I was dreaming of Memphis in the rain as I wondered what Elvis was doing. I always wanted to see Memphis in the rain and at this point in my life it was unthinkable that I'd really get there, much less meet and get to know Elvis. Somehow, magically out of the center of me (maybe my heart and soul) this line rolled out loud: 'Ah, any place is paradise when I'm with you. Baby I'd live deep in the jungle, sleep in the tree.' Man, it was so Elvisie and what a thrill. I started singing like that all the time, and it was down in the basement at school when someone heard me do "Heartbreak Hotel that started the people and kids requesting me to do 'more Elvis'!"
Elvis began to take hold of her life. First, her high school drama teacher cast her as an intergalactic female Elvis on a planet ruled by women. Then, wearing a gold vest and with her hair slicked back with Brylcreem, she performed as Elvis at a high school talent show. "As I bounded to center stage, my Sears and Roebuck Gene Autry guitar under my arm, I received the full charge of electrical current Elvis had been getting, and just his name did it. Elvis became a part of me, somehow, that night. I grabbed the mike with one hand, hung my left one over the neck of my guitar, tipped one shoe and sneered with a little laugh that I saw him do. The reaction was incredible. I launched into my first number, amidst a wail of screams. And from that night on I knew the trail that I must blaze would be the Elvis Trail, however right or wrong that might be."
Determined to meet her idol, Janice set out for Memphis in 1967. One night she and her father were invited to one of the King's exclusive all-night parties at the old Memphian Theater. "You just don't know what the word thrill means unless you've witnessed that magical procession with Elvis' Lincoln Continental or Cadillac in the lead with his entourage, all in gleaming cars, following him, their headlights winding down that beautiful curving drive of Graceland. First, you'd hear excited shouts and you'd see flashlights flashing across the yard and cars. Then you'd hear Elvis laugh and car doors banging. Then the revving up of the engines and then here they come. The strange aura that surrounded him - his presence charged the air with some unknown and untitled element. Charisma falls way short. When he would leave he seemed to take that space he was in with him and leave a vacuum. You would feel his presence enter a room before you actually would turn to see him standing there."
Several years later Elvis took Las Vegas by storm, and in 1970 Janice followed him. She landed parts in two movies: "Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins" and "Two Different Worlds", and moved on to Hollywood to study acting. Grief-stricken and unable to perform after Elvis' death in 1977, she went home to Exeter, Nebraska to recover and didn't return to the stage again until 1978. In the last few years, Janice has been entertaining fairly regularly, both with the band and on her own.
Janice believes she absorbed a small portion of the "Elvis essence" from watching him - she saw him perform 39 times - and being near him. "I try with all my heart and soul to give back to the people who watch me the very thing I so dearly loved and cherished when I watched Elvis. I pray that if Elvis knows, by some means, he will consider my act an interpretation rather than an impersonation of him. I hope that he'd consider it a compliment at the very best; or at least that he'll get a kick out of it. Elvis is my life, the very core of me and my sole inspiration. I truly believe the Lord gave Elvis to the world as a gift-a gift to the entertainment world of the greatest magnitude and the likes of which we'll probably never see again." Janice pysches herself up for a show by remembering what Elvis himself told her: "Don't think about it, man, or you'll blow it. Just go out there and do it!" Janice adds, "Of course, you do have to take all the steps necessary to reach that day. Preparation and being ready sets your mind at ease so you can approach that performance and enjoy what you're doing and have fun right along with the audience. Then things fall into place. It is on stage where this 'Elvis feeling' comes to me and just takes over."
What Janice loves most about her show is the wonderful feeling that consumes her as she sings. "The music and the beat just seems to take over and I let it...and the audience and I seem to just roll with it, as one. It's a wonderful experience and makes my life worth living. Trying to recreate a little of the atmosphere I felt when I watched Elvis in concert is what I'm all about."
Janice recalls many memorable shows, including her performance at the local county fair when she appeared before the Open Air Grandstand on "Church Program Night." The entire audience joined in singing and swaying along with her as she sang "How Great Thou Art." Janice looked to the eastern sky and saw a huge silvery, full moon riding high above the crowd, adding inspiration to this magical moment.
Janice includes some of the lesser-known songs in the King's songbook, such as "Thrill of Your Love," "Wearin' That Loved On Look," or "Reconsider, Baby." She also loves to do "How Great Thou Art," "Wonder of You," "Are You Lonesome Tonight?" and some of his gospel songs. The costumes that she wears on stage are her own designs, but are inspired by the jumpsuits worn by Elvis. She has more than a dozen in such colors as red, black, pink, metallic blue and, of course, several of the traditional white with studded stars that Elvis wore. A professional seamstress (and good friend of Janice's) usually makes the costumes, but Janice herself made the jumpsuit seen on the sleeve of her EP. Janice's EP, on the Mighty Midwest label, features a couple of Elvis tunes - I Beg of You and I Was the One - as well as her own Don't Be a Fool and Skull and Crossbones by Omaha songwriter Sparkle Moore.
A documentary film of Janice's life was directed and produced by David Stilwell. The film focuses on Janice performing, but also features her Elvis room, her reminisces of Elvis, and Janice at target practice with her .38 Special revolver. The film also includes a re-enactment of the miraculous event that occurred on December 17, 1983. "I'd just been on the phone with Elvis' Uncle Vester and I was sittin' at the kitchen table while mama was cookin' supper," Janice recalls, "When I noticed that there was a man lookin' in the south kitchen window - and it was Elvis' image! It was his forehead, cheekbones, and nose on the window screen. The next day I went outside and all the limbs on the evergreen tree behind the window were scorched and singed." The image stayed on the screen for four years before it faded and eventually vanished.
Even after his death, Janice still feels close to Elvis. "His spirit guides me, and in that way, I'm able to bring so much pleasure to the people I entertain. My audience doesn't come to see me. They come to see Elvis. And when I'm singing, it's the King's voice they hear."
above courtesy of the I Am Elvis book
More about Janice
Some of Janice's major appearances were: Oprah on January 21, 1991; A.M. Los Angeles Live on February 12, 1991; Joan Rivers on February 15, 1991; Entertainment Tonight on March 18, 1991 and Inside Edition in the spring of 1991. Janice also appeared in the TV movie "Viva Elvis" that aired first in London, England's TV channel X on August 12, 1991. Later it was sold to and aired on the cable network of The Discovery Channel in the U.S. many times. The 1974 movie produced by Warner Brothers, "Rafferty and the Gold Dust Twins," that Janice appeared in was later sold to television and the title was changed to "Rafferty and the Highway Hustlers" and has been shown many times. It starred Alan Arkin, Mackenzie Philips and Sally Kellerman. Janice turned down an offer by Mark Goodsen's "What's My Line" in 1993 because of her family's failing health including her own. She also turned down a role offered to her in the Nicolas Cage movie "Honeymoon In Vegas." The movie was being shot in August when her dad had his last birthday and Janice wanted to be with him. He died that month, August 14, 1995. Janice was interviewed numerous times on radio stations across America as well as the BBC in Canada. She was interviewed and sang "Love Me Tender" on Radio France in Bardeaux. The year1998 has been particularly sad for Janice, having lost both her beloved mother and Aunt.