(WIVB) – Lockport resident John Lang is well known among Bills Mafia as “Bills Elvis.” Lang has dressed up as “King of Rock” – with a Buffalo twist – for the past 30 years.
The enduring character began as a bet before a Bills-Dolphins game in 1992.
“From what I remember, a friend of mine bet me that I couldn’t be on TV,” Lang recalled. “So I searched my apartment and found a guitar, put on ‘Squish the Fish’ and ‘Go Bills’.
It was Lang’s wife, Therese, who found an Elvis costume and gave Lang fake chest hair and sideburns for the game.
He did the show that day.
“Chris Berman was making fun of me on ESPN that night,” Lang said. “My whole section was having such a good time – everyone was saying ‘you gotta keep doing this’.”
Lang has been a season ticket holder ever since – and he’s only missed three home games since 1992.
“I saw a lot – it was fun,” he added.
Lang’s costume is complemented by his custom guitars, which always feature different designs and messages – and he’s been through a lot of them over the years.
“My mom used to pick them up at garage sales,” Lang added. “Over the years people I didn’t even know dropped them off at my house or at gas stations I frequented – I had no idea who they were or where they came from.”
This season, Lang is getting help from local artists to create unique designs.
Austin Hinton, a Lockport-based artist and longtime friend of the Langs, designed several guitars for Bills Elvis this season, including a Zubaz-inspired skull for the Halloween game against Miami.
“You want them to be readable from a distance, especially if players see it,” Hinton added.
Brian Baker, a Wilson Middle School art teacher and Lockport resident, created a guitar that featured a portrait of Stefon Diggs on one side and a not-so-flattering image of New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick on the side. another for the Bills. -Patriots football match on Monday night.
“I’ve known John for a little while and thought it would be cool to get in touch with him and see if I could get my work out there,” Baker said.
Ashley Dusza, an art teacher at Batavia High School and friend of the Langs’ daughter, created a guitar for the Colts game that featured Ed Oliver standing on top of the Colts logo.
“It was a really amazing opportunity, combining two of my passions,” Dusza said.
With the Bills attracting national audiences this season with games like Monday Night Football and Thanksgiving night, it’s a lot of eyes on their artwork.
The equipment of Lang and his tailgate team was unfortunately stolen last Sunday at Highmark Stadium.
A GoFundMe was created to replace the tailgate for Saturday’s Bills-Pats playoff game – and as always, Bills Mafia pulled it off.
The page has raised over $5,000 of the $3,000 goal. Lang says the extra money will be donated to the Patricia Allen Fund at Oishei Children’s Hospital.
Kaley Lynch is a digital journalist who has been part of the News 4 team since 2017. See more of her work here.