By: Jessica Llanes
At the tender and impressionable age of 7, while grabbing some burgers with his family in Arlington, Drake Milligan had his first encounter with Elvis Presley – or at least, an Elvis Presley tribute artist. “I don’t know what it was that drew me to him. It may have been the jumpsuit, the sideburns or the music; I’m not sure. I liked that he was making people happy with what he was doing. They seemed to love it,” Milligan says. “I went home and read books, listened to music, watched movies and learned everything I could about Elvis.”
It wasn’t long before Milligan was singing and dancing along to Elvis classics at home. He remembers specifically that the first Elvis song he ever heard was “Blue Christmas,” which played on the radio several times that year. At age 9, his mother, Angela, took him on the first Elvis Presley Enterprises ocean cruise for a family vacation, where he was invited to perform an Elvis song onstage. He continued drawing attention with his craft by winning costume contests, talent shows and competitions at Elvis festivals.
Milligan attended Legacy High School in Mansfield. He’s performed at venues across North Texas, including the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History during its Elvis at 21 exhibit and the Grapevine Opry. At 16 years old, he portrayed young Elvis in the short, small-budget film Nobody, featuring Elvis’ relationships with his mother and teacher and the talent show that changed his path forever.
With no formal training except guitar, voice and acting lessons when he was younger, life as a performer seems to be built into Milligan’s DNA. “Being in front of the camera feels natural to me,” he says. Much like Elvis, Milligan was just a shy teenager from humble beginnings who has quickly discovered stardom.
Last February, Milligan saw a post on Facebook announcing auditions for a television series, Sun Records, on CMT, looking to cast a young Elvis. He got the part, and season one of the series concluded in April. Set in Memphis during the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, Sun Records tells the story of the birth of rock ‘n’ roll. The series chronicles young musicians like Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and, of course, Elvis Presley and their rise to fame during a time of political and social unrest.
In addition to Milligan’s appreciation for the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, he has met and spent time with many of those who worked with and befriended Elvis. His evolution as an Elvis performer has been methodical. Milligan is committed to providing his audience the most realistic tribute to his music idol.
Other than the obvious similarities in voice and appearance, Milligan says he can relate to Elvis’ disposition. “He was very human and never forgot his past and where he came from. There was such a realness about him. He was a humble guy,” he says.
Milligan says he’ll never forget his roots here in Fort Worth. “I love this city. I don’t have any plans on moving away. I may have to spend time in other cities, but I always want to come back to Fort Worth. It’s home to me.”
With hopes that there will be a second season of Sun Records, the 18-year-old is pursuing other projects and has no intention of slowing down. “Of course I’d love to see the series go on. I’m going to continue progressing my career. I want to make my own music, find more roles, branch out and show people that I can act.”
By: Jessica Llanes