From Evangelist to Street Performer: The Story of the West End Elvis

He sits sat in the shade, patio chair beneath him and guitar on his lap, dressed in black from his hair to his shoes, waiting for an audience.He’s woven into the fabric of the West End, and many district regulars have seen him sitting and playing for years. Kyle McAllister, a young entrepreneur in the building behind him, talked to him for months before learning his name. McAllister calls the performer what most people know him as: “Elvis.”Others know him as Phil Sneed, a young Elvis fan turned traveling evangelist turned downtown street performer. For the better part of 13 years, Sneed, 56, has worked in the West End, earning his living by playing Elvis songs for tips.Sneed will be the first to admit it’s not an easy life. Even in Texas’ worst heat, he arrives, via bus, in the same black dress pants and button-up shirt. The collar is popped and buttons undone midway down his chest, exposing curling wisps of gray and white chest hair. It’s a stark contrast to his hair, dyed black and bowled, with long, genuine sideburns sliding down his cheeks. His eyes are wide behind gold-framed sunglasses. Even with the shaded barrier, he always looks at you straight on.“This is the hardest way to survive, doing what I’m doing,” he says, matter-of-factly. “And I think you have to be pretty talented. Well, you have to be real.”  Continue reading...

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