In the 1950s, Elvis Presley coined the term “Memphis Mafia” for a close group of his friends and family.
Four decades later, the “Bills Mafia” would adopt their own version of “the King.”
He had the jumpsuit.
The sweet shades.
He may not have had the voice to match the King of Rock and Roll, but “Bills Elvis” was one of the original “super fans,” born in Buffalo’s Super Bowl era.
“A buddy of mine in Florida called me, and we were betting the Bills-Miami games for about 10 years or so, I was like 'I'll bet you double or nothing I get on TV,'” said Lockport native John Lang. “He's like 'Yeah, you're on!' [So I] found an old guitar, I painted it white and put ‘Go Bills’ on the front, and ‘Squish the Fish’ on the back of it. My wife painted these sideburns on me, and some chest hair, and I had this stupid looking goofy suit... Next thing you know I was on the broadcast, and Chris Berman had fun making fun of me all week long."
By winning a simple bet, Lang would create the first iteration of Bills Elvis.
But the fans around him refused to let Lang drop the character as a one-off.
"I [had] people all around where I was sitting, and they were just having so much fun,” Lang laughed. “'You've got to keep doing this, this is fun, you've got to keep doing this,' and I was like 'Yeah, I guess this is me.' It's the greatest fanbase on earth, to me. It really is”
Decorated along the walls of his “man-cave,” you’ll find autographed jerseys and footballs, paintings and lawn gnomes, a slew of brightly colored jackets, and the occasional signage from Missoula, Montana, one of his favorite places outside of Western New York.
Believe it or not, they recognize him as Bills Elvis in Montana too, said Lang.
But even more important than his Bills memorabilia, Lang’s walls are decorated with newspaper clippings from local sports pages.
No, they aren’t clippings of the Bills.
They’re laminated columns and photographs of his kids, from every time they were featured playing hockey, or running track and cross country.
“It started with this little board, and they just kept getting featured in the local papers,” Lang said, staring at the wall with pride.
How do his kids feel about their dad’s Elvis alter ego?
“I think they like it,” Lang laughed. “My daughter acted like she was embarrassed and didn’t want to be with me, but now they want to go to all of them, as they’re in their college years.”
As for whether or not he expects to see his kids don their own super-fan attire in the future?
Lang said they both seem pretty content to just wear jerseys to games with their super-fan dad.
… For now.