The “singing surgeons” of the Mayo Clinic are taking their act on the road.
Actually, on the track — a very special track.
Drs. Elvis Francois and William Robinson, two surgical residents who have wowed audiences online and in appearances on “Ellen” and other TV programs, will be featured in a special Memorial Day celebration broadcast from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway — the famed Brickyard, site of the Indianapolis 500 auto race, which claims to be the largest single-day sporting event in the world.
The race, traditionally held on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, has been postponed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s now scheduled to be held on Aug. 23.
But rather than let the track go dark, NBC is producing “Indy 500: Back Home Again,” a four-hour special scheduled for Sunday from 1-5 p.m.
The program will celebrate racing, honor the nation’s veterans and pay tribute to the health care workers and others who are on the front line in the pandemic.
The Mayo surgeons filmed their piece about 10 days ago, a rendition of “God Bless America” performed on the 3-foot-wide strip of bricks that marks the race’s finish line, with Robinson on piano and Francois on vocals.
“That song specifically talks about the togetherness of our country from shore to shore,” Francois said. “It speaks to our times, and I’m incredibly honored to share it.”
Singing from the Brickyard was “honestly unbelievable,” he added. “Sitting in that arena of 300,000 people and seeing no one there was an especially moving moment that can’t be matched. I don’t think I’ll ever experience anything like it.”
The two got their start about two years ago, when Francois came out of the operating room after a long, tough day. He started belting out the Bon Jovi tune “Living on a Prayer,” and nurses and other hospital workers joined in.
“It dawned on me how impactful music is,” Francois said. “Music goes places that medicine can’t go.” Francois began singing for patients in the hospital’s intensive care and pediatric units.
After discovering that Robinson is a musician, Francois asked him to learn a song on the piano. The duo performed it after a 28-hour shift on call. A co-worker filmed it and put it online. It went viral, and the singing surgeons were born.
Francois said his taste in music is broad, encompassing acts from Frank Sinatra to Bruno Mars. But there’s one artist he won’t try to cover.
“I listen to Prince, and Prince is an idol of mine,” he said. “But I would never, ever, ever try to cover Prince. You can’t duplicate that kind of magic.
“I’ll sing it in the shower or the car, but not in public.”
Francois is nearing the end of his five-year residency in orthopedics and will be heading for Boston in a couple of months for a fellowship. But he promised that his departure won’t break up the act.
“Robinson is coming to Boston, whether he likes it or not,” Francois said with a laugh. “Or I’ll be getting down [to Minnesota].
“We’ve got a fun thing going. We’re definitely going to keep this going, one way or another.
“The music won’t stop.”
Oh, and in case you were wondering about the name: Yes, he was named after the King.
“My mother was going to name me Gregory, but she kept having dreams about Elvis [during pregnancy],” Francois said. “So she took that as a sign.
“As a baby, she would dress me up as Elvis for the holidays, put a part in my hair and everything. She’s a huge Elvis fan.”