The Tragic Reason Why Elvis Never Traveled Internationally

Elvis Presley never toured abroad for reasons out of his control. Here’s what kept him from playing shows overseas.

In the 1950s, Elvis Presley had amassed an army of dedicated fans across the globe. Many of his fans never got the opportunity to see him perform live, though. Elvis only ever performed shows in North America; despite fan demand abroad, he never toured internationally. While some have speculated that Elvis’ fear of flying kept him from traveling internationally, this wasn’t the case. The musician’s controversial manager, Colonel Tom Parker, kept him from planning international tours.

Elvis Presley never toured internationally

In 1956, Elvis began working with Parker. He helped the singer rise to success, but he put one rather significant limitation on Elvis’ career: he wouldn’t plan international tours.

While he claimed to have been born in West Virginia, Parker was not a legal citizen of The United States. He was born in Breda, a city in the Netherlands, and he worried that if he left to tour with Elvis, he wouldn’t be able to reenter the country. Some feared that there was a sinister reason Parker had fled the Netherlands.

Journalist Dirk Vellenga investigated Parker’s life. He attracted an audience with his writings about Elvis’ manager and received an anonymous tip from one of his readers.

“At last, I want to say what was told to me 19 years ago about this Colonel Parker,” the note read, per Smithsonian Magazine. “My mother-in-law said to me, if anything comes to light about this Parker, tell them that his name is Van Kuijk and that he murdered the wife of a greengrocer on the Bochstraat …. This murder has never been solved. But look it up and you will discover that he, on that very night, left for America and adopted a different name. And that is why it is so mysterious. That’s why he does not want to be known.”

Parker has never been officially linked to the murder, though.

Colonel Tom Parker stifled Elvis’ career in other ways

The inability to travel internationally for concerts certainly didn’t help Elvis’ career. Parker stifled Elvis in other ways, too.

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Elvis Presley never toured internationally
In 1956, Elvis began working with Parker. He helped the singer rise to success, but he put one rather significant limitation on Elvis’ career: he wouldn’t plan international tours.

While he claimed to have been born in West Virginia, Parker was not a legal citizen of The United States. He was born in Breda, a city in the Netherlands, and he worried that if he left to tour with Elvis, he wouldn’t be able to reenter the country. Some feared that there was a sinister reason Parker had fled the Netherlands.

A black and white picture of Elvis holding up a piece of paper while Colonel Tom Parker stands behind him.
Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker | Lee Lockwood/Getty Images
Journalist Dirk Vellenga investigated Parker’s life. He attracted an audience with his writings about Elvis’ manager and received an anonymous tip from one of his readers.

“At last, I want to say what was told to me 19 years ago about this Colonel Parker,” the note read, per Smithsonian Magazine. “My mother-in-law said to me, if anything comes to light about this Parker, tell them that his name is Van Kuijk and that he murdered the wife of a greengrocer on the Bochstraat …. This murder has never been solved. But look it up and you will discover that he, on that very night, left for America and adopted a different name. And that is why it is so mysterious. That’s why he does not want to be known.”

Parker has never been officially linked to the murder, though.

Colonel Tom Parker stifled Elvis’ career in other ways
The inability to travel internationally for concerts certainly didn’t help Elvis’ career. Parker stifled Elvis in other ways, too.

In 1974, Barbra Streisand met with Elvis, wondering if he would be a good fit for a leading role in A Star is Born. The film went on to receive multiple Oscar nominations and likely would have helped reboot Elvis’ floundering career. Parker rejected Streisand’s proposal, though. He had enough control over Elvis’ career to do this.

Parker didn’t believe Elvis was well-suited for more serious roles and didn’t think he should take the part. Instead, Kris Kristofferson got the role.

Elvis Presley tried to fire Colonel Tom Parker

Elvis had a lengthy working relationship with Parker, but he once attempted to fire him. When Hilton owner Barron Hilton fired an employee for having a friendly relationship with Elvis, the musician was furious. He ranted about Hilton onstage, much to Parker’s irritation.

Per USA Today, Elvis and Parker fought viciously about it until Elvis fired his manager. In response, Parker drew up a bill ranging somewhere between $2 million to $10 million for what he claimed Elvis owed him. Elvis realized he couldn’t afford to pay it and decided to keep working with Parker.

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