|Rocky Teoh Beng Hock was born in Taiping, Perak, Malaysia in 1946 and was killed in a car accident on 9 September 1990, the anniversary of Elvis Presley’s famous debut on the Ed Sullivan Show. The connection is significant as Rocky Teoh was renowned as ‘Malaysia’s First and Best Elvis Presley Impersonator’.|
When I first heard of Rocky I was reminded of Anthony Burgess’s stories based on his experiences in Malaya in the late 1950s. In one of those stories four young small-town Malays, besotted with American rock ’n’ roll, spend their days sitting in cheap cafes practicing the English they have learnt from American films. Each day one of the four wears the uniform they bought cheaply from a hard-up British serviceman. Not an army uniform, rather a pair of drainpipe trousers, a serge jacket with a velvet collar and a string tie. I imagined that Rocky Teoh came from a similar background, but was surprised to learn that he came from a slightly later generation. When 19 year old Rocky cut his first record in 1965 other teenagers around the world were being swept along by Beatlemania, but Rocky Teoh dreamed of being Elvis Presley.
Rocky’s recording career was brief, from 1965 to 1967, but he is said to have released in that time two singles, twelve EPs and two LPs, but I haven’t seen all of these. Many of the songs Rocky recorded were ones that had been made famous by Presley previously, but he was not entirely an imitator as he sometimes used different arrangements and also recorded some of his own songs, such as his second release, Jacqueline, dedicated to his girlfriend, later his wife. The tune for Jacqueline is an adaptation of a Chinese popular song, a technique utilised by Rocky in some of his other compositions as well.
Rocky and his band toured throughout Malaysia and Singapore from 1965 to 1967 and also toured in Thailand in 1966, always playing to packed houses. Rocky certainly projects the image of a cool rocker on his record covers and I can imagine he spent considerable time in front of the mirror perfecting his smile-cum-sneer and Elvis-like stance. Many of Rocky’s old recordings have recently been re-issued on CD by the Rocky Teoh Fan Club. You can visit their website here: http://www.rockyteoh.com/ You can also see more photos of Rocky on this site.
History, photos and music submitted by Steven Farram.
Rocky and Jacqueline on their wedding day