Elvis Phuong: The King of Vietnamese Rock N Roll

by Jason Toon

Pham Ngoc Phuong dreamed of being the King. Not the king of French Indochina, where he grew up in the years after World War II. Not even the king of independent Vietnam. Pham Ngoc Phuong dreamed of being the King of Rock n Roll.

So he took the name Elvis Phuong and begung singing with rock outfits like Les Vampires and the Rockin' Stars. By the late '60s he'd struck out on his own to become the hip-swinging sensation of Saigon. The Vietnam War drove him to Southern California, where he remains a major pop idol among the Vietnamese immigrant community. As relations warmed between the U.S. and Vietnamese governments, he even returned to Vietnam in the late '90s to record.

For obvious reasons, very little Vietnamese TV or performance footage from that era remains accessible to us today. And his later stuff tends toward synth-heavy balladry. But this pair of vintage cuts - the wild and crazy one above, and the mournful and moody one below - makes a strong claim for Elvis Phuong's claim to the Viet-pop throne. Dài sống các vua!