The Weirdo Reason Elvis Couldn't Tour Outside The U.S.
Elvis Presley has to be the most famous singer in history, if not the most famous person of any kind in the entire inner solar system. You might imagine that he wowed people the world over by performing for huge sold-out crowds. Why, who can forget Elvis in Amsterdam, Elvis in Sydney, Elvis in Tokyo, and of course Elvis in London?
In reality, Elvis never toured internationally. He performed in over 240 cities, over 1,600 performances, but these were all in the United States. He did do three shows in Canada, all in 1957, but we're not going to count that as traveling internationally because at the time, you could travel freely between the U.S. and Canada without a passport.
We're not being arbitrary with that definition—freedom of travel is the crucial issue here and is the reason Elvis couldn't tour outside America. Elvis' manager, "Colonel" Tom Parker, believed that if he ever left the U.S., border authorities would forbid him (Parker) from ever coming back.
Parker, played by Tom Hanks in the new Elvis movie, was born in the Netherlands and was originally named Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk. He worked on a ship to reach an American port and then leapt off the ship to enter the country illegally. He later enlisted in the U.S. Army, which meant he could have eventually become a citizen, but he never got around to it. He instead did his own form of naturalization. He called himself "the colonel" (just an honorary title), changed his name to Tom Parker (which sounded very American to him), and walked around in a cowboy hat (or occasionally some other hat he thought looked American, like in the above photo).
As Elvis' manager, the responsible thing for Parker to do (assuming he had no plans to sort out his immigration status) would be to send Elvis on fabulous world tours while he himself stayed behind back in the States. But Parker insisted on tight control over his client. We'll have to leave the full story of the Colonel and Elvis for a longer article, but let's just quickly mention that Parker would occasionally take over Elvis' home, he pushed Elvis into getting married, and he sometimes made more money off Elvis' career than Elvis himself did—though he then lost most of it gambling. The one good thing about Parker, though, is he had some skill at marketing. It was his idea to produce and sell buttons labeled "I Hate Elvis."
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Top image via Wiki Commons