Born and raised in Derby and an ardent fan of the iconic performer Elvis Presley since the early 1990s, British Indian Bal Johal has been in the field of acts for a while now. But it was during the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown that this talented singer found a whole new calling for his Indian Elvis Show – keeping the spirits of his neighbours high.
The father and driving instructor recently became an internet sensation after police in Derbyshire shared a clip of Johal dressed in his complete Elvis Presley gear singing to ‘Burning Love’ on Chelwood Road in Chellaston.
‘iGlobal’ caught up with Johal to hear more about that moment and his love for all things Elvis – the 20th century American singer, musician and actor referred to as the “King of Rock and Roll”.
When Johal’s brother purchased Elvis Presley’s 40 Greatest Hits album, neither would have thought it would turn into a life-long fandom for Bal.
“I became hooked, and before I knew it, I was playing it every day at home and school. I began singing at school, everyone would ask who he was, they loved the music and before you know it there was an Elvis Presley fan club at school,” he recalls.
But for Johal, the King is more than just his hit wonders and dashing looks – he is an older brother figure who has always inspired him.
He explains: “He has inspired me a lot, and recently throughout lockdown, I learned how to play the guitar. After seeing a video clip of Elvis performing to ‘Lonesome Tonight’, and he wasn’t very well but he still played his heart out. That really stuck in my mind and I learned that particular song during lockdown.
“One of the main things I liked about him is that he was such a humble guy. He helped people, and maybe it's because he came from a very poor and humble background, and that sort of reflected in his later years. He remained humble, and I think that is why a lot of people love Elvis because he remained true to his roots.”
Reflecting on his clip that has accumulated thousands of views across the UK and beyond, Johal shares: “My daughter qualified this year to become a . It was very heart-breaking to see her going work and seeing the realities of corona virus. I think everyone needs motivation and uplift, so with my daughter being one of those right in the middle of the pandemic, I felt I had to get out there and perform.”
The reaction from the public Johal exclaims has been fantastic as the number of people who came out and joined in was heart-warming, with cards and gifts pouring in.
“One lady made me a diamond painting of Elvis Presley, the painting itself is made out of little diamonds, and it must have taken her hours to do. Such a lovely gesture,” he notes.
Beyond all the fame and growing fan-base Johal has amassed since the viral video, human and personal touch.
“A lady recently got in touch with me. She wanted me to sing for her mum’s birthday who is a big Elvis fan and I, of course, couldn’t say no.”
As well as his iconic Elvis Presley tribute acts, Johal is a life-long fan of Indian playback singer Gurdas Maan and performs a mix of Punjabi and English songs on his YouTube channel – .
He reflects: “The link between both is the King of beats meets the King. My show is not only Elvis tributes, it’s sort of called the Indian Elvis Show. It is about a British Indian bringing all the influences into the show.
“Elvis is at the centre, but I have also included Tom Jones who is his best friend, and Roy Orbison, one of Presley’s favourite singers, including other performances.”
Johal is now all set with his Christmas and New Year’s playlist for a Covid-secure lockdown party on his street – to bring more joy to his neighbours.