"I was on the road performing at times when he was," O'Rourke said. "But we were never at the same place at the same time."
Somewhat ironic is the fact that O'Rourke - who is perhaps Bayonne's best known Elvis tribute artist - didn't start down the long road of performing Elvis material until Elvis died on Aug. 16, 1977.
Already well into his own career as a professional musician, O'Rourke honored requests to honor Elvis during a gig, and found the reaction so pleasing, he expanded his act to include more Elvis.
"I decided to keep on doing Elvis material until people no longer wanted it," he said. "Here it is 30 years later and people still want it, so I'm still doing it."
Elvis Presley, born in 1935, became the symbolic leader of the emerging rock & roll movement in the mid-1950s, and has been credited with putting together a sound that influenced an entire generation of music.
John Lennon once said The Beatles, who arrived a decade later, would not have existed without Elvis.
At his purest, Elvis was seen as perhaps the most influential single performer in his generation with such early hits as "Hound Dog," and "Jailhouse Rock" altering the face of music forever. Most directly, Elvis allowed many African American groups to make the transition to pop charts, intergrading mainstream music. While Elvis has been accused of "stealing" black music to make it acceptable for white audiences, Jackie Wilson, of the premier Black performers of the 1950s and 1960s said Elvis actually influenced many of the African American singers that followed.
While Elvis began his career performing what is called Rockabilly - a cross of country and Rhythm & Blue, he learned to love music through his participation in the church. "Elvis loved and continued to love Gospel music," O'Rourke said. "He sang it all the time."
As music changed, Elvis went out of fashion for intervals. Part of this may have been due to some choices his manager made in developing Elvis' movie career. But Elvis had a way of reinventing himself. This was particularly true with his 1968 TV broadcast which was said to be among the best television musical broadcasts in history and one which paved the way for MTV's Unplugged series many years later. Elvis' Ed Sullivan Show appearance in 1956 was viewed worldwide by as many as 60 million people. A TV Special shot in Hawaii in the early 1970s drew an audience estimated to exceed one billion viewers. In the early 1970s, Elvis became a mainstay of the Las Vegas circuit and remained a popular attraction there until his untimely death at age 42 in 1977.
After his death, Elvis became the stuff of legend. Although always larger than life, his popularity actually grew. Shrines to his memory were erected in many homes throughout the United States, particularly in the American South, and his estate, Graceland, became a Mecca for many musicians, including O'Rourke, who made his first trip there shortly after it was opened to the public in 1987.
Portion of the interior of O'Rourke's home on Broadway in the Bergen Point section of Bayonne have been made over to resemble Graceland, with many of the items actual collectables from Elvis' estate, or duplicates he could find through his searches. "EBay made a lot possible," O'Rourke said, referring to an on-line auction O'Rourke collection of Elvis paraphernalia has become local legend.
Although O'Rourke has made a career out of his Elvis tribute performances, he seems to have a more objective view of Elvis' place in history.
"Each generation until recently has had an icon or strong personality," O'Rourke said. "I've always been fascinated with icons and dynasties. Perhaps that's why I gravitated to Elvis and the Kennedy family. Elvis was bigger than life and became an icon in his own life time. People need heroes. I don't know why they chose Elvis, but they did. He happened to come along at the right time. It isn't just because he had talent. Many people had as much talent as he did. I think it's timing. He was at the right place at the right time."
But O'Rourke said Elvis - like other icons - paid a price for his status.
Elvis' life reads like a Greek tragedy. He rose to heights few others have reached, and then fell victim to his own personal flaws, and at times, even seemed a parody of his former fame.
Yet O'Rourke sees Elvis as a marker in time, a moment of significant change in music. "He is one of those characters by which people define a before and after in the history of music," O'Rourke. "He was a pivotal point in time."
While Elvis had his ups and downs over the decades, O'Rourke said Elvis was consistent one some points.
"If he was your friend, he was very loyal to you," O'Rourke said. "He was also generous to a fault. For instance, he always gave to charities. Around Christmas time, he would sit down and write out cards to his favorite 50 charities and include a check with each. There is a plaque in the hall of Graceland erected by those he helped in his life time."
The public's fascination with Elvis may have to do with lack of royalty in America. "We needed royalty," he said. "That's why we call him the King of Rock or just The King. But his is also a rags to riches story. He's the average American who made it big. And as big as he got and as famous as he became, he really didn't change. He remained until his death an ordinary person. What he said with his life is that there really is hope for the rest of us."
O'Rourke said he got a sense of who Elvis was during his first visit to Graceland. "They really didn't have their act together down there at the time so I got to touch his gold records and sit in the chairs Elvis sat in," O'Rourke said.
Graceland also reflected American working class' idea of success, with the formal front rooms, yet with special rooms for play.
Despite Elvis' rise and slow fall into obscurity, his death shocked the nation, O'Rourke said.
"It was unexpected," O'Rourke said. "He was a young person and he should have been around for some time. I think part of the regret is that we see his as a life cut short, and we are all somehow diminished by his death. But his legacy is all around us. Every time you hear a rock and roll singer, you hare seeing Elvis' influence. I think his music will live on long after the rest of us are gone."