Jimmy Ellis (born February 26, 1945 - died December 12,1998) was born in Orrville, Alabama on February 26th of 1945. The music industry is filled with many strange tales of artists whose lives took unexpected turns on the winding road to success, but the saga of singer Jimmy Ellis is perhaps one of the weirdest of them all. He was professionally known as Orion, and his double-edged claim to fame was that his natural speaking and singing voice sounded almost exactly like that of [Elvis Presley]. Ellis hailed from Orrville, Alabama and began his recording career in 1964. In 1972, he worked for Sun Records (Presley's label) with producer Shelby Singleton in Nashville. His first two singles were covers of two of the King's former hits, "That's All Right" and "Blue Moon of Kentucky."
Life as "Orion"
Shelby Singleton of Sun International decided to disguise Ellis' identity on his first Sun single, "That's All Right (Mama)"/"Blue Moon of Kentucky" (Sun 1129), leaving listeners to speculate that the songs might be alternate takes of Elvis' first first two songs. Instead of listing Ellis' first album on the label, Singleton printed a question mark. Ellis first album appearance for Sun was as an unidentified singer singing duet with Jerry Lee Lewis on ten tracks of the 1978 album Duets (Sun 1011). Charlie Rich sang along with Lewis on two other songs. Again, the speculation was that Elvis had sung on the songs, particularly "Save the Last Dance for Me".
In 1979 Jimmy Ellis finally merged with an identity, but it still wasn't himself. He appeared as Orion Eckley Darnell, the character created August 16, 1977, by a Marietta [Georgia], housewife Gail Brewer-Giorgo. Her 1978 novel Orion told the story of a rock and roll singer, very much like Elvis, who faked his own death.
On Orion's 1979 debut album, Reborn (Sun 1912). Ellis appeared on the album cover wearing a mask over his eyes. The album featured some excellent songs including "Ebony Eyes", "Honey", and "Washing Machine". They were sung in the same style in which Elvis would have sung them.
Ellis's Orion character claimed to have been managed by one Colonel Mac Weiman, and have been born in Ribbonsville, Tennessee on December 31, 1931. Listeners of Orion were initially split into two camps: those who knew that Orion was Jimmy Ellis just having some fun sounding like Elvis , and others who sincerely believed or wanted to believe that he was truly Elvis coming back on the scene after faking his own death. As Orion, Ellis reached Billboard's country chart with nine singles.
A fine talent in his own right, Ellis recorded the song "I'm Not Trying" (Boblo 536) and the album By Request - Ellis Sings Elvis (Boblo 78-829)
Ellis made a public confession in 1983 admitting he was Orion. He left Sun Records, never again appearing to the public as Orion.
Ellis was gunned Down in His Alabama Pawn Shop December 12, 1998. He was standing before the display counter in his Jimmy's Pawn and Package Store just after noon Saturday when the gunman burst in and, in seconds, turned the quiet shop into a slaughterhouse.
"Mr. Ellis never had time to do nothing or say nothing," Dallas County Sheriff Harris Huffman Jr. told APB News. "He just opened fire in seconds and hit Mr. Ellis in the side."
After the first blast, which left the 53-year-old Ellis mortally wounded and crawling for safety, the gunman turned his weapon on the singer's 44-year-old ex-wife, Elaine Thompson, who was on a stool behind the counter. He fired once into her face, killing her instantly and hitting another worker, Helen King, in the hand. The gunman, who police believe is Plantersville resident Jeffery James Lee, then fired twice more in an attempt to blast Ellis a second time as he struggled to find a haven behind a computer desk, Huffman said.
The shot missed, and then Lee allegedly turned his attention to the cash register, which he knocked off the counter after he could not open it, Huffman said. He then dropped the gun, fled the store and drove off in a car with two accomplices, authorities said.
Huffman said King, who played dead, was treated and released from a hospital for her hand wound. Ellis died in his store about 10 minutes after the attack, Huffman said.
Later that day, sheriff's deputies caught up with the two alleged accomplices, Andre Darren Lee, 19, who is the alleged gunman's brother, and Jerry Dewayne Johnson, 17, who is his cousin. Police later found Lee holed up in a motel about 30 miles outside Atlanta. All three are being held without bail and are facing the possibility of the death penalty on two counts of capital murder, authorities said.
|Year||Title||Label||Tracks (If additional were available)||Credited To|
|"Don't Count Your Chickens"||Dradco||Don't Count Your Chickens / Love Is But A Love||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Blue Moon Of Kentucky"||Sun||Blue Moon Of Kentucky / That's All Right||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Changing"||Sun||Changing / I Use Her To Remind Me Of You||Jimmy Ellis|
|"There You Go"||MCA||There Ya Go / Here Comes That Feeling Again||Jimmy Ellis|
|"It's You Again"||Boblo||It's You Again / The Closer He Gets||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Tupelo Woman"||Boblo||Tupelo Woman / Just Out Of Reach||Jimmy Ellis|
|"There You Go"||Boblo||There You Go / Here Come's That Wonderful Feeling Again||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Movin' On"||Boblo||Movin' On / My Baby's Out Of Sight||Jimmy Ellis|
|"I'm Not Trying To Be Like Elvis"||Boblo||I'm Not Trying To Be Like Elvis / Games You Been Playing||Jimmy Ellis|
|"That's All Right"||Sun||That's All Right / Blue Moon Of Kentucky||"?"|
|"Save The Last Dance For Me"||Sun||Save The Last Dance For Me / Am I To Be The One||Orion|
|"Cold Cold Heart"||Sun||Cold Cold Heart / Hello Josephine||Orion|
|"Honey"||Sun||Honey / Ebony Eyes||Orion|
|"Washing Machine"||Sun||Washing Machine / Before The Next Teardrop Falls||Orion|
|"Remember Bethlehem"||Sun||Remember Bethlehem / Silent Night||Orion|
|"Stranger In My Place"||Sun||Stranger In My Place / It Ain't No Mystery||Orion|
|"Faded Love"||Sun||Faded Love / Texas Tea||Orion|
|"Am I That Easy To Forget"||Sun||Am I That Easy To Forget / Crazy Arms||Orion|
|"Rockabilly Rebel"||Sun||Rockabilly Rebel / Memphis Sun||Orion|
|"Crazy Little Thing Called Love"||Sun||Crazy Little Thing Called Love / Matchbox||Orion|
|"Be Bop A Lula"||Sun||Be Bop A Lula / Break Up||Orion|
|"Born"||Sun||Born / If I Can't Have You||Orion|
|"Some You Win, Some You Lose"||Sun||Some You Win, Some You Lose|
|"Feelings"||Sun||Feelings / Baby, Feel Say Yes||Orion|
|"Honky Tonk Heaven"||Sun||Honky Tonk Heaven / Morning, Noon And Night||Orion|
|"Listen To Daddy"||Sun||Listen To Daddy / (some copies has) I'll Sing What To Dream (or) Remember Bethlehem (1979)||Orion|
|"I'm Saving Up My Pennies"||Sun||I'm Saving Up My Pennies||Orion|
|"I'm Saving Up My Pennies"||Kristal KS||I'm Saving Up My Pennies (1982) / I'm Starting Over||Orion|
|"One Hundred Pound Of Clay"||Kristal KS||One Hundred Pounds Of Clay / Because He Lives||Orion|
|"Thank God For America"||Southern Tracks||Thank God For America / I Make The Livin'||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Sunday Father"||Southern Tracks||Sunday Father / Thank God For America (1986)||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Down In Mississippi"||Vulcan||Down In Mississippi||Steven Silver|
|"Unchained Melody"||Radio Active NR||Unchained Melody||Orion|
|"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"||Stargem||I Want you, I Need You, I Love You / Plastic Saddle||Orion|
|"Love It Back Together"||Stargem||Love It Back Together / If That Isn't Love||Orion|
|"Feel Right"||Stargem||remains unreleased and remains as a private item||Unknown|
|"I'll Be With You Always"||Golly Music||I'll Be With You Always||Jimmy Ellis|
|Reborn||Chairty||Honey / Lover Please / Got You On My Mind / Mona Lisa / Before The Next Teardrop Fall / Ebony Eyes / Washing Machine / Baby, I Still Love You / You Can Have Her / Lonesome Angel||Orion|
|By Request, Ellis Sings Elvis||Boblo||Moody Blue / Return To Sender / Hurt / Kentucky Rain / Can't Help Falling In Love / It's Now Or Never / Burning Love / You Don't Have To Say You Love Me / My Way / Love Me Tender / Mean Woman Blues / Teddy Bear||Jimmy Ellis|
|Reborn||Sun||Re-release of the 1978 album||Orion|
|Sunrise||Sun||Secret Love / You Can't Judge A Book / San Fransisco Is A Lonely Town / Then I'll Be Over You / I Heard You Talking With Your Eyes / Stranger In My Place / I Hear you Knocking / Turn Around, Look At Me / Baby You Got It / It Ain't No Mystery||Orion|
|Country||Sun||Texas Tea / Faded Love / What Did I Promise Her Last Night / Green Green Grass Of Home / Crazy Arms / Send Me The Pillow You Dream On / Help Me Make It Through The Night / Release Me / Please Help Me I'm Falling / The Long Black Veil / Am I That Easy To Forget||Orion|
|Rockabilly||Sun||Rockabilly Rebel / See you later Alligator / Suzie Q / I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday / Rockin' Little Angel / Crazy Little Thing Called Love / Long Tall Sally / Memphis Sun / Peggy Sue / Matchbox||Orion|
|Glory||Sun||Where He Leads Me / Sweet Hour Of Prayer / I Surrender All / Peace In The Valley / It Is No Secret / I Believe / He Touched Me / Softly And Tenderly / Where No One Stands Alone / Just A Closer Walk With Thee||Orion|
|Fresh||Sun||There's No Easy Way / Baby Please Say Yes / Born / If I Can't Have You / Ain't No Good / Some You Win, Some You Lose / Look Me Up (And Lay It On Me) / Old Mexico / Rainbow Maker / Anybody Out There||Orion|
|Feelings||Sun||Feelings / No One Will Ever Know / I Love You Because / What Now My Love / Somewhere My Love / I Can't Stop Loving You / He'll Have To Go / Snowbird||Orion|
|20 All Time Favorites||Suffolk Marketing||Snowbird (1981) / Save The Last Dance For Me (1978) / Honey (1978) / Please Help Me I'm Falling (1979) / Feelings (1981) / Help Me Make It Through The Night (1980) / Am I That Easy To Forget (1980) / Mona Lisa (1978) / Before The Next Teardrop Falls (1979) / I Love You Because (1981) / Faded Love (1980) / Crazy Arms (1980) / Release Me (1980) / Green Green Grass Of Home (1981) / Secret Love (1979) / He'll Have To Go (1981) / What Now My Love (1981) / No One Will Ever Know (1981) / I Can't Stop Loving You (1981) / Somewhere My Love (1981)||Jimmy Ellis|
|New Beginnings||Aron||I Need You In My Life / Lay Around And Love On You / Sunday Father / America / Never Too Old To Rock And Roll Sweet Mississippi Memories / Back On The Street / Old Time Rock (re-recording) / I Can't Get Used To Sleepin' By Myself / The Way My Dog Loves Me / Her Memory Just Won't Let Us Lay Down / Down In Mississippi||Jimmy Ellis|
|Genuine||Stargem||Only A Woman Like You / Love It Back Together / Lookin' For A Way / She Wakes Me With A Kiss Every Morning / We Can't Go On Living Like This / Plastic Saddle / I Want You, I Need You, I Love You / Hooked On A Feeling / Separate Ways / If That Isn't Love||Jimmy Ellis|
|The Legend Continues||Stargem||Feel Right / Since I Met You Baby / Slow Hand / Nothing Short Of Dying / Love Is In The Air / That's The Thing About Love / At This Moment / It Only Hurts When I Cry / Tips Of My Fingers / Treat Me Nice||Jimmy Ellis|
|Because He Lives||Stargem||Just A Closer Walk With Thee / Amazing Grace / Where Could I Go But to The Lord / You'll Never Walk Alone / I'll Fly Away / Lead Me, Guide Me / Peace In The Valley / Stand By Me / Because He Lives / Precious Memories||Jimmy Ellis|
|Special Moments||Stargem||Restless / Lay Around And Love On You / I Need You In My Life / Out Of The Blue / Memories Won't Let Us Lay Down / Dream On Me / Can't Get Used To Sleeping By Myself / Sunday Father / Old Pipeliner / Old Time Rock||Jimmy Ellis|
|Steady As She Goes||Kardina||Steady As She Goes / He Has His Hand On Your Heart / Love Is The Only Way Out / Between Hello And Goodbye / Rock Your Baby / I Know Where You Are Coming From / My Boogie Wants To Boogie With You / The Power Of Your Love / If You Ever Want A Fool Round / Starting Over||Jimmy Ellis|
|Holiday Tribute To The King||Kardina||Here Comes Santa Claus / I'll Be Home For Christmas / O' Little Town Of Bethlehem / Blue Christmas / Santa Bring My Back Back To Me / Holly Leaves And Chistmas Trees / Silent Night / Santa Claus Is Back In Town / Jingle Bells (re-recording) / It Won't Seem Like Christmas Without You||Jimmy Ellis|
|A Christmas Filled With Love||Kardina||Christmas Memory / A Christmas Filled With Love / The Funny Little Man All Dressed In Red / An Old Fashioned Christmas / Christmas Spirit / Christmas Eve / The Fireplace / You're All I Want For Christmas||Jimmy Ellis|
|2000*||Ellis Sings Elvis - The Last Recordings||Kardina||Stuck On You / Don't Be Cruel / Crying In The Chapel / All Shook Up / Are You Lonesome Tonight / Teddy Bear (re-recording) / If I Can Dream / I Want You, I Need You, I Love You (re-recording) / That's Al Right (re-recording) / Follow That Dream||Jimmy Ellis|
* Released After Jimmy Ellis's death in 1999
These songs has appeared on other compilations or a collection of songs.
|"Save The Last Dance For Me" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"Sweet Little Sixteen" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"I Love You Because" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"C.C. Rider" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"Cold Cold heart" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"Hello Josephine" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"It Won't Happen With Me" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"What I'd Say" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"Good Golly Miss Molly" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Duets - Jerry Lee Lewis and Friends||Friend|
|"Christmas Greetings"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Jingle Bells"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Up On The House Top"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Deck The Halls"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Joy To The World"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Hark, The Hearld Angel Sing"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"We Wish you A merry Christmas"||Christmas To Elvis||Orion|
|"Be Bop A Lula" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Good Rockin' Tonight" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Money" (duet with Jerry Lee Lewis)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"On My Knees" (duet with Charlie Rich)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Gentle As A Lamb" (duet with Charlie Rich)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Break Up" (duet with Charlie Rich)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Sittin' And Thinkin' (duet with Charlie Rich)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Dixie Fried" (duet with Carl Perkins)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Matchbox" (duet with Carl Perkins)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"Gone, Gone, Gone" (duet with Carl Perkins)||Trio Plus||Orion|
|"He is Gone But Not Forgotten"||A Tribute To Elvis (K-Tel)||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Merry Christmas Love"||Holiday Collection (Kardina)||Jimmy Ellis|
|"Santa Bring My Baby Back To Me"||Holliday Collection (Kardina)||Jimmy Ellis|
|"It's All In The Game" (duet with Andy Lee Lang)||Duets - Andy Lee Lang||The Shadowman|
|"Matchbox" (re-recording)||They Thought They Were Elvis||Orion|
|"Puppet On A String" (duet Andy Lee Lang)||Together - Andy Lee Lang||Orion|
* Released After Jimmy Ellis's Death
- BlackCat Rockabily, article by, Venezia, Todd at APB News. 
- Elvis: His Life From A to Z, by: Worth, Fred and Steve Tamerious. Copyright © 1990, Wings Books.
- Official Jimmy Ellis Website, Copyright © Orion-Jimmy Ellis/TimeStar. 
- The Strange and Ultimately Sad Story of Elvis Sound-Alike..."Orion", article by McCall, Michael. 
- Worldwide Discography Of Jimmy "Orion" Ellis,