They come in all colors, shapes, ages and sexes - a huge, jumpsuited melting pot of culture and gender that even the King himself might not have imagined.
``My goal was always to meet him and have him say, `Thank you, you're really good,' '' Butler said.
Butler stood in a performance hall at the Sheraton Hotel here, talking with fans between drags on a cigarette, one of dozens of would-be Presleys competing in the Images of Elvis championship - which attracts hundreds of fans each night.
This week the impersonators have top billing at venues throughout the city.
Elvis Herselvis, a lesbian, cross-dressing Elvis, was gyrating at a local dance club, and Green E, the Environmental Elvis who sings songs like ``Don't Waste Fuel'' (to the tune of ``Don't Be Cruel''), was ripping it up at Java Cabana. Tonight, the Blues City Cafe expects a full house for ``El Vez,'' the Mexican Elvis, who croons ``Immigration Time'' to the melody of ``Suspicious Minds.''
El Vez is backed by the Memphis Mariachis and the Elvettes - Gladysita, Priscillita, Lisa Maria and Que Linda Thompson. He says one of his proudest accomplishments is that, after performing for hundreds of devoted Elvis fans near Graceland, he managed to escape with his life.
Others have received warmer receptions.
Kathy Ohsawa traveled here from Kumamoto City, Japan, for her first American performance - and brought down the house at the Sheraton, belting out ``Can't Help Falling In Love'' as male impersonators crowded the stage at her feet, vying for the scarves she draped around their necks.
Ohsawa wore a gold-sequined red jumpsuit, hid her eyes behind gold-rimmed black glasses, and pulled her hair back in a D.A.
``I'm a woman, so everything is different, voice is different,'' Ohsawa said in an interview. ``But Elvis' spirit is the most important thing.''
After competing in Images of Elvis, run by a man who was once the King's personal veterinarian, Ohsawa was heading to Nashville to cut an album of Elvis songs to sell in Japan.
The very best of American impersonators can earn $75,000 a year. But most shake it up in church basements, restaurants or VFW halls, earning a few hundred bucks or sometimes just applause for their night's work.
By day they are insurance salesmen, police officers, auctioneers, private eyes, even doctors. Many have their own fan clubs. They wear colored contact lenses and dye their hair - some don wigs - to improve their look. They'll spend $2,000 for an authentic-looking, Phoenix-style jumpsuit.
Most of them are nice men, eager to give fans the attention and access they could never have gotten from Elvis. And they do great with women.
``It'll be these high-class women, and they're throwing themselves,'' said manager Mike Wilkinson, adding that his client, Vince Duke, has been bombarded with bras and panties on stage.
Chicago artist Patty Carroll has photographed more than 200 imitators, displaying many of her works this week at the Memphis College of Art in her show, the Ultimate Elvis Impersonator Extravaganza.
She's concluded that Elvis was too big a concept for people to comprehend - young Elvis, movie Elvis, Army Elvis, dead Elvis - so they turn to simpler, more easily decipherable portrayals.
``You don't need Elvis, you just need the idea of Elvis,'' Carroll said. ``Elvis himself was no longer himself anyway.''
Carroll has photographed Vietnamese and Pakistani Elvises, a German Elvis and one blind Elvis. By donning the jumpsuit, she said, they become a kind of third person, certainly not Elvis, but not themselves either.
``Elvis liked them, he liked the impersonators,'' she said. ``He understood Elvis the image and Elvis the person.''
Carroll shot roll after roll of film during the preliminary rounds of the contest this week. A few competitors were dead ringers who sang great. Most were mediocre, and some were awful.
Good or bad, scholars say, the hundreds of impersonators who roam the back roads of America are an important part of the Elvis mystique.
Professor Peter Nazareth, who teaches a class on Elvis at the University of Iowa, said the imitators can be viewed as the high priests of the Elvis movement, made holy by their donning of the vestment - the sequined white jumpsuit. Like clerics, they are the earthly doorway through which followers can gain access to a higher, unseen power, in this case Elvis himself.
``The impersonators are aware they're not Elvis,'' Nazareth said. ``They're a window through which we can experience Elvis.''
Most portray the older, Vegas-style Elvis, for a couple of good reasons. To perform as the young, 1950s version, the imitator must be youthful himself. And while he may think he's cool in a lime sport coat and dark wool pants, the audience may see tired, old-style threads.
But snap on a white jumpsuit with an American eagle emblazoned across the chest in red, white and blue rhinestones, and voila: Elvis.
In interviews, the impersonators' comments tend to be as identical as their outfits: They don't think they're Elvis, they only want to pay tribute to him, and if they can make just one Elvis fan happy, then it's all worth it - thankyouverymuch.
Among the best in the city this week was Shawn Klush - ``like flush,'' he says - a 28-year-old Elvis look-alike who climbed onto a stage across the street from Graceland and blew away 200 cheering fans.
``He's great, and I've heard a lot of impersonators,'' one woman said.
Klush sang in jeans and a plain shirt, saying it would be disrespectful to perform in costume during Elvis Week. ``That's my way of saying I'm not Elvis and never will be,'' he said.
But the market for Kinglike impersonators has grown with the publicity surrounding the 20th anniversary of his death. In the Sheraton hallways, groups of men in multicolored jumpsuits gossiped about who among them had a nose job and who was performing a new song.
``We're all in the brotherhood,'' Butler said, black sideburns running almost to his chin. ``We've been sharing secrets and ideas. There really is no competition. We're all doing it for the same reason: The love of Elvis.''