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Locally penned story set to take to the big screen

Sara McManamy-Johnson sjohnson@lebanondemocrat.com • Nov 30, 2013 at 6:00 PM

Lebanon’s “Elvis” Wade Cummins is no stranger to the stage.

When he was just 13 years old – four years after he first started performing – the Tennessee native joined his first band.

“It was a natural for me to sing and perform,” said Cummins, who explained that both his parents were musically inclined, playing 17 instruments between the two of them.

And perform he did, doing covers of popular songs from Gene Pitney, Tom Jones, Buddy Holly, Roy Orbison, Gary Puckett, Frankie Valli and Elvis Presley.

By the late ‘60s, Cummin’s show focused solely on Elvis.

“I was actually noted as being the first Elvis impersonator,” said Cummins. “I started that idea long before Elvis died, and Elvis actually came to see my show.”

After the legendary performer’s death, his stepmother, Dee Presley worked with Cummins as a press agent for more than five years and Elvis’s longtime backup vocalists, the Jordanaires, performed with Cummins for more than 12 years.

During his decades-long career, Cummins has toured the world and played some of the world’s largest venues.

But Cummins is letting others – including Hollywood heavy-hitters Ray Liotta and Ashley Judd – take the stage in his latest venture.

Production just wrapped on “The Identical,” a film based on a script he wrote five years ago.

“I started writing songs when I was 11 years old, but I was never a reader,” said Cummins.

He said the story took six months to write and kind of just came to him.

“God downloaded this story to me,” said Cummins. “He dictated and I typed.”

He said that he has written a few other things, including an autobiography.

“This is the first thing that I ever really pursued getting published or making into a movie,” said Cummins.

The story follows a set of identical twins separated at birth but connected by their passion for music.

“The story is about how their lives differ in so many ways, but how they are really so much alike in so many ways,” said Cummins.

The film spans from the 1930s through the 1970s, and not surprisingly features quite a bit of music.

Cummins has a cameo appearance playing a singer who won a statewide contest, and he also performed one song for the movie.

He said that although the story is fictional, there were some elements of real life mixed in.

“It has a lot of my life weaved in and out of it,” said Cummins.

He wouldn’t say, though, whether elements from Elvis’s life were included, although Elvis actually had a twin brother who was stillborn.

“I’m going to let the reader and the person watching the movie decide that themselves,” said Cummins. “I will say, the story is a fictional story, but it’s very, very easy to imagine it being a real story.”

The movie was filmed throughout Middle Tennessee, including in Lebanon and Watertown. In fact, the lead character in the story is from Lebanon.

Cummins, who watched much of the filming, described the feeling as surreal and touching.

“It was everything that you can imagine,” said Cummins. “I was numb until I was sitting on the set one day and watched Ashley Judd and Ray Liotta do a scene with several other people. It all hit home to me that this was real.”

He said filming ended about a year ago and editing ended about a month ago, but he doesn’t know the release date yet.

“I know they signed an international distribution deal,” said Cummins.

The film will be in theaters, and Cummins said it would be a good one for families.

“You can watch it with your kids, and I believe it will touch a lot of people’s hearts,” said Cummins. “Parents can rest assured taking their kids to the show no matter what age they are and they’re not going to be embarrassed or offended.”

He said he anticipates it in theaters sometime within the next three months.

Just because he’s letting others take stage this time doesn't mean Cummins is done with the stage yet. He said he still performs extensively, just rarely near home.

On Dec. 8, though, he’ll perform a dinner show, “Blue Christmas,” at The Nashville Palace. He said anyone interested in attending can call Jeff Jeffrey at 615-337-2021 for tickets.

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