(WIVB) – Lockport resident John Lang is well-known among Bills Mafia as “Bills Elvis”. Lang has been dressing up as the “King of Rock” – with a Buffalo twist – for the past 30 years.
The enduring persona started off as a bet before a Bills-Dolphins game in 1992.
“From what I can remember, a buddy of mine bet me I couldn’t get on TV,” Lang recalled. “So I scoured my apartment and found a guitar, put “Squish the Fish” and “Go Bills”.
Lang’s wife Therese was the one who found an Elvis suit and gave Lang some fake chest hair and sideburns for the game.
He made the broadcast that day.
“Chris Berman was making fun of me on ESPN that night,” Lang said. “My whole section was having such a great time – everyone was saying “you’ve got to keep doing this”.”
Lang has been a season ticket holder since then – and he’s only missed three home games since 1992.
“I’ve seen a lot – it’s been fun,” he added.
Lang’s costume is completed by his customized guitars, which always feature different designs and messages – and he’s gone through plenty over the years.
“It used to be my mother would pick them up at garage sales,” Lang added. “Over the years, people who 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 an assist from local artists to create one-of-a-kind designs.
Austin Hinton, a Lockport-based artist and longtime family 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 legible from a distance, especially if the players see it,” Hinton added.
Brian Baker, an art teacher at Wilson Middle School and fellow 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 other for the Bills-Patriots Monday Night football showdown.
“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 artwork out there,” Baker said.
Ashley Dusza, an art teacher at Batavia High School and a friend of the Langs’ daughter, created a guitar for the Colts game that featured Ed Oliver standing on the Colts’ logo.
“It was a really awesome opportunity, combining two of my passions,” Dusza said.
With the Bills attracting a national audience this season with games like Monday Night Football and Thanksgiving night, that’s a lot of eyes on their artwork.
Lang and his tailgate crew’s equipment was unfortunately stolen last Sunday from Highmark Stadium.
A GoFundMe was created to replace the tailgate by Saturday’s Bills-Pats playoff game – and as always, Bills Mafia pulled through.
The page has raised more than $5,000 over the $3,000 goal. Lang says the additional money will be donated to the Patricia Allen fund at Oishei Children’s Hospital.