Music | January 4, 2022 7:00 am

In the 1970s, One Man Used Plastic Surgery to “Revive” Dead Rock Stars

The group Rock and Roll Heaven didn't simply impersonate Elvis, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jim Croce, they wanted to look like them

The band Rock and Roll Heaven from the 1970s, featuring five singers who had plastic surgery to resemble Elvis Presley, Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jim Croce
The five singers who were "cloned" in the likeness of dead rock stars reveal their new faces.
Bettmann Archive/Getty

In the years before the pandemic, it seemed as though tribute bands were gaining steam. Glancing at the schedules of various concert venues revealed a growing number of bands who were adept at playing songs written by a different group, and even some more established acts were getting into it.

The history of cover bands extends back for decades and goes down some strange avenues. (If you haven’t yet read Daniel Ralston’s article about a band hired to tour as the Zombies in 1969, it’s well worth checking out.) But few cover band experiences, even modern iterations involving holograms, can hold a candle to one enterprising promoter who had plastic surgery done on five musicians and billed them as “Rock and Roll Heaven.”

No, you’re not reading that wrong. Find a musician who sounds somewhat like Elvis, give him plastic surgery to make him look even more like Elvis and send him out on the road. Repeat the process with Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison and Jim Croce, plus a woman who also resembles Elvis. This is not the plot of a lost satirical novel, though it may well have inspired a Saturday Night Live sketch or two.

David Browne wrote about the history of this bizarre footnote to rock and roll history for Rolling Stone, and it’s absolutely gripping stuff. Perhaps the most apt summation of what Browne learned came from A.J. Croce, son of Jim. When informed that someone had once undergone plastic surgery to resemble his late father and sing his songs, the younger Croce commented, “Jesus Christ — that’s some twisted shit.”

It’s also worth mentioning that the saga of Rock and Roll Heaven gets even weirder from there. If this isn’t adapted for film or as a prestige miniseries, I’d be shocked.