Sarah Fielden chats to an entertainer who is hoping to make the big time by impersonating the Rocket Man
“He’s been impersonating me for all these years and taking the credit for it.”
That’s how Preston man Dieter Graham views Elton John, after making a career out of singing as the star.
The 56-year-old, who lives in Fulwood, discovered his talent for singing as a child and began professionally impersonating the best-selling artist after an appearance on Stars in Their Eyes.
Previously a miner from Rotherham, Dieter now works at the Royal Preston Hospital but hopes to carry on performing after travelling the world as his favourite singer.
He said: “I was about 12 or 13 when I first started singing. I used to sing to my mum and dad’s old records - I loved the idea of singing along to whatever it was.
“I started to learn to put the microphone a bit nearer towards my voice and see how much I could sound like somebody.
“When Elton John came along, for me I was in my early teens I just thought he was brilliant.” Dieter started singing semi-professionally from the age of 18 to 21, when he sang with a cover band working the club circuit.
He said: “I attempted to sound like everybody we did and I think we did and Elton John song within that.
“I was with the band for about eight years doing the covers, working the circuit, travelling up and down the country living out of a suit case.”
Then in the early 1990s, Dieter’s brother secretly signed him up to audition for Stars in their Eyes.
He said: “I just went along and put a base ball cap on and a pair of shades and sang sacrifice.”
Although Dieter didn’t win, he was invited back for Christmas specials and said that things began to change after his performance.
He said: “When Elton John came along, he was a breath or fresh air.
“If I was listening to Elton John I would record myself doing it with the microphone closer to me.
“I think over the years I developed my own style but it was easier to go back into the Elton John style, and as that’s grown over the years it’s become more and more like him.”
Dieter took his tour around the world and impersonated Elton John until about 2008.
“He said: “Then I started to do less and less and start looking at different careers - I think I just grew tired of it in the end.
“You become that type cast that you feel that you can’t totally express yourself in the right light as an individual artist, so I thought I perhaps needed to give it a bit of a rest.”
In 2011, Dieter began working as a medical laboratory assistant at the Royal Preston Hospital, and while working there he received a phone call from a producer at Stars in Concert.
He said: “I saw it on the Tuesday, and by the Saturday I was in it.
“I had time to finish work and then go and be this alter ego at the central promenade in Blackpool - I had to dig out all the old suits.
“I thoroughly enjoyed it - it felt different this time around because I was learning new things. The way I portray him now is in a sincere way, rather than being like a balloon artist - rather than wearing costumes with big feathers on, because I think that detracts from the performance.”
Dieter said his new way of performing demanded “a bit more acting”.
He said: “When you’re just in a suit, you’ve got to use your facial expressions, but I loved every minute of it.
“Now I’m back at RPH I don’t know what’s happening as yet for next year, but without a doubt I am hoping to carry on performing. I got the buzz back for it and I’ve got a different feel from it now.
“My perspective now is that I must concentrate on making it as believable as possible.”
Dieter said he had loved Elton John’s music since he first heard it, but said he was yet to meet the 66-year-old.
He said: “I think he would be a great guy to meet, he’s very down to earth and he says it as it is.
“It would be nice to meet him because he’s been impersonating me for all these years and taking the credit for it.”
Dieter said that before performances, he spent time back stage becoming Elton.
He said: “I feel like I’ve perfected it more since I got older.
“Now I just want to see what’s going to happen. There are things in the pipe line and they are going to happen, and I am definitely going to carry on performing.
“If people enjoy it you can see people’s faces and it gets great feedback.
“When you are giving someone something and they love it, you are taking them into a fantasy world.”