All Thomas Hickey needs are horn-rimmed glasses, a sport coat and a guitar, and "Oh, Boy!" He's ready to hit the stage as rock 'n' roll pioneer Buddy Holly.
Thomas performs about 40 shows a year as the opening act for Elvis impersonator Steve Davis and his Mid-South Revival Band.
"(Holly) had so much energy on stage," said Thomas, 41, of Shiloh, who bears a striking resemblance. "He was amazing, and I think my strong point is portraying that energy.
"I jump up and down. I move around a lot. I work the audience. I don't stand still. I get everyone clapping. I get everyone singing along."
It's a far cry from Thomas' regular job as a math teacher at Belleville East High School.
Most of his students have never heard of Holly, a singer, songwriter and guitarist responsible for such hits as "Peggy Sue," "That'll be the Day," "It's so Easy" and "Maybe Baby."
"Buddy came around in 1957, and he was popular for 18 months only," Thomas said. "He died Feb. 3, 1959, in an airplane crash. That was 'the day the music died.'"
Thomas was repeating Don McLean's line from the 1971 song "American Pie," which referred to Holly's death at 22.
Even fellow math teacher Shawn Coughlin was unfamiliar with Holly until he started going to Thomas' shows. Now he's a big fan.
"Tom is such a natural entertainer in the classroom," said Shawn, 31, of Belleville. "He's high energy. He teaches honors freshman, and he does so well with them.
"He has a great stage presence, and he carries that into the classroom. The students just gravitate toward him."
Thomas grew up listening to all types of music, including Elvis and Buddy Holly. He hammed it up with a toy guitar and dreamed of becoming a performer.
As a teenager, Thomas liked Billy Joel, Huey Lewis and the News and his all-time favorite band, Chicago.
"I've seen them in concert 30-plus times over the past 25 years," he said. "I've met the band backstage four times."
Thomas earned bachelor's and master's degrees in math education at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville. He became a karaoke singer in college, winning several contests by portraying Holly.
Thomas put music on hold in 1994, when he got the Belleville East job. He auditioned seven years later for a tribute show at Chase Park Plaza with Johnny Cash, John Lennon and Donna Summer impersonators.
"I thought, 'I've done this before. I can do it again,'" said Thomas, who continued as part of that group until starting his collaboration with Davis in 2004.
"I love performing with a live band," Thomas said. "There's so much more energy on stage when you have other people with you."
Thomas' unusual part-time job has landed him on "Show Me St. Louis" and a Fox2 News segment with Tim Ezell.
One of his biggest fans is wife Katie Hickey, 37, an accountant for Ameren. She goes to about half his shows, including the annual Elvis Birthday Bash at The Pageant in St. Louis.
"I love it when we take a family member or someone else who has never seen (Tom) perform," Katie said. "I love watching their faces when he shakes his leg and runs around on stage. He has such a good time."