The Elvis Impersonator

Schulz performing at Turner Field before a Braves game. Photo credit: Flickr.com/Richard Roberson

Harold “Elvis” Schulz wears a red-and-white shirt, blue jeans, and white boots when he’s Country Western Elvis. He wears a G.I. Blues uniform when he’s Army Elvis. He wears a black velvet shirt, gold vest, and white patent leather shoes when he’s Return to Tupelo Elvis.

For over a decade, Schulz and his trio, Young Elvis and the Blue Suedes, have been performing strictly 50s tunes for thousands of adoring fans at nursing homes, corporate events, and weddings around the world.

Schulz’s natural resemblance to The King is striking. For shows, he simply applies Suave Mega Hold hairspray and some red chapstick, and he’s ready to go. Even Elvis’ own stepbrothers tell him he looks like Elvis’ ghost.

Title: Celebrity look-alike and performer
Age: It’s a trade secret – somewhere between 30 and 35
Graduated from: University of Georgia, B.B.A. in marketing
In the industry for
: 11 years
Salary: $200 to $250/hour for nursing homes; $350 for 30-minute private parties; up to $2,000 for 3-hour conventions and corporate events
Previous jobs:
Regional and national salesman at various companies, including Siemens

Biggest crowd: 10,000 people in Kansas City for New Year’s Eve in 2008.
Average crowd: Anywhere from 40 to 5,000.
Total number of shows: In the thousands. In my busiest month, I worked 19 shows.

Schulz performing in Memphis.

How you got the job: My ex-wife was garnishing wages from my corporate job, so I only had about $400/month to live on. To make some extra money, I started singing karaoke at different venues for fun. I entered a contest and happened to sing Elvis, and the DJ called me afterward. He asked if I had ever thought about being an Elvis impersonator, and my first thought was, I’m not a fat guy, and I’m not putting on a white jumpsuit.

What changed your mind? He told me I could make $500/hour performing, which perked my ears up. I started practicing, and made $850 for 45 minutes during my first gig. After I was laid off from my corporate job, I decided to go into showbiz full-time.

You call yourself “young Elvis.” What are the restrictions? I’m strictly a 50s Elvis – not that fat guy in a white jumpsuit. I perform mostly blues – you know, “Heartbreak Hotel” and “Don’t Be Cruel.”

How do you resemble Elvis? My hair lifts high like his, and we’re the same height and weight. I also practice all his mannerisms, like singing to the microphone and the little inflections in his voice.

That must take a ton of practice. In the beginning, I spent thousands of hours in front of the mirror. And I’m always practicing my voice – usually in my car, since I drive around a lot. [Begins belting out “You Don’t Know Me.”]

Schulz with Elvis' stepbrothers, Rick Stanley (L) and Billy Stanley (R).

What makes your show unique? All our instruments – including our microphones – are vintage, meaning they’re worth about $145,000. My group is officially endorsed by Rick and Billy Stanley, Elvis’ stepbrothers, and Billy once told me that it freaks him out how much I look like Elvis.

How many guys do you work with? A trio, just like the original Elvis trio: a drummer, guitarist, and bassist. We also do some Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin shows.

And you do all the singing? Yep, and I play some acoustic guitar, just like Elvis did. I’m pretty much a one-man shop: I manage the marketing, bookings, advertisements, video editing, production, web design, and sales. My business background helps with all of that.

Where do you perform? Lots of nursing homes, retirement homes, and events like the Special Olympics. But to pay the bills, I’ll do larger venues, like performing arts centers, corporate events, the occasional casino, and private parties – weddings, anniversaries, and birthday parties.

Do you travel across the United States? All over the world, actually. If they’re paying, we’re playing.

Something people don’t know about your job: Elvis crosses all cultural and socioeconomic borders. We perform for kids to teens to people in their 90s. Playing for older clients is cool, because we’re bringing music back to life that they grew up with.

Channeling Elvis' style, Schulz sings to the microphone "like it's his woman."

Do you refer to yourself as “The King”? No, never ever, ever. When I’m on stage, I’m on, but when I’m off, I’m off.

You seem like a pretty normal guy, but there must be some crazies out there who think they’re actually Elvis. Last year, I went to Elvis Week in Memphis for the first time. Some of the people there made Trekkies look normal.

Did you grow up listening to Elvis? Elvis, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Nat King Cole – all the classics.

Is your house decorated with memorabilia? I’ve never bought that kind of stuff, but people always give it to me – 45s, books, framed photos. My living room is decorated very classy, with some 45s and some black-and-white photos from Jailhouse Rock.

How do you pump up the crowds? Elvis was always a practical joker, so I’ll do lots of comedy and banter on stage to keep things fresh. I also spend about half the show off the stage, walking around the room and singing to ladies.

Funniest memory from a show: Once, I heard a woman whisper to her husband, “That guy must have had plastic surgery.” So I snuck up behind her and said into my mic, “Nope, no plastic surgery!” She screamed.

Routine before a show: I’ll apply a little mascara to my eyebrows, some red chapstick to my lips, and occasionally some self-tanner to bring out my eyes. Some of the Elvis impersonators I’ve seen wear so much makeup that they look like French prostitutes.

You mentioned an ex-wife earlier. Was she an Elvis fan? She hated it. In the beginning, she pretended to like it, but we couldn’t eat dinner without people asking to take a photo with me. I didn’t mind it.

Schulz with a group of adoring fans after a show.

So you have lots of fans? Once, during a dinner in Florida, a group of eight girls came up to me to take photos. Their boyfriends were sitting at the next table, giving us dirty looks. I was like, Hey man, they came over to us. Get mad at them.

Favorite Elvis number: I have about 10 favorites, mostly ballads, including “Love Me Tender,” “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” and “All Shook Up.”

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
1. While it’s important to seek the advice of industry experts, think outside of the box. Everyone told me to build a fan base, but I didn’t want to. I like working with new people at each show, so I always go after different venues and fresh audiences.

2. Find a niche in the market. All Elvis impersonators were doing the jumpsuit thing, so I opted to do young Elvis. Also, market your services as selling an experience. I sell the entire 1956 style, feel, energy, and vintage instruments– not just a guy who looks like Elvis.

3. It helps to have a business background. Otherwise, you’re at the mercy of your manager. Just look at Billy Joel’s $90 million lawsuit against his ex-brother-in-law and former manager; the guy didn’t know anything about his own books.

Check out more videos of Young Elvis and the Blue Suedes! Unless stated otherwise, all photos courtesy of bluesuedeent.com.

The Traveling Motivational Speaker

Photo courtesy of Jessie Jolles

Need some motivation to get back in the work groove after a long, relaxing Memorial Day Weekend? Thought so. Well, look no further: today’s No Joe Schmo is Robert Jolles, who has spent nearly 30 years as a professional speaker and corporate trainer. And he has 2,000 pages of journal entries to show it.

At 22, Jolles began his career as an insurance salesman. Now, more than three decades and 2 million air miles later, he gives seminars to corporations across the world that inspire success and dare clients to change their working cultures.

Below, he explains the science behind nailing an interview, his rationale to a work/life balance (hint: he never stays at work past 5 p.m.), and why he wears black underwear during seminars.

Title: Professional speaker and corporate trainer, Jolles Associates, Inc.
Age: 54
Salary: Ranges between $200,000 to $2 million/year, depending on time on the road.
In the industry for: 30 years
Number of miles in the air: 2 million
Graduated from: University of Maryland, major in communications/minor in business
Biggest audience : 10,000 people. Usually speaks to 300-500.
Previous jobs: Salesman for New York Life Insurance Company; Training specialist for Computer Science Corporation; actor

Job description in one sentence: I teach persuasion and influence to a variety of clients, including over 60 financial institutions, universities, and other Fortune 500 clients.

What does that mean? I can get in front of a group of teachers and totally change the way they teach you. They’re not persuading the way students learn – they’re using fear tactics. You have to motivate and inspire someone to learn.

How he got into the business: At my first job working as an insurance salesman at the University of Maryland, I went to a meeting to find that the entire management team had gone to lunch and was stuck in the parking lot because someone had parked behind them. So I handled the meeting instead, and I ran it like I was directing actors. I got such a high, it made me want to be a corporate trainer. Another freakish occurrence made me take that to the next level. I was sent to a seminar called “How to Listen Powerfully” by Lou Hampton. They charged $250 per head, and I thought, that’s a very good day’s work that guy is having. I thought, I can do that, and I can do it better than that guy.

Why he loves his job: I get the pleasure of teaching, the thrill of performing, and the ability to feed my family.

Biggest mistake in interviews: People forget that the more the interviewer talks, the more they like the interviewee. If you want to win an interview, engage the interviewer in some questions about themselves, the company, and something they would want to brag about.

The most important lesson he’s learned: You’re as good as the last time you opened your mouth. You need to always give 100 percent maximum effort, period.

One of Jolles' three best-selling books, "The Way of the Road Warrior."

What skills are necessary for starting a business? The book answer is to have a passion for what you’re doing. But the reality is, it’s too much pressure to tell a recent graduate to go do their passion. Recent grads think they’re absolutely heading to their careers, but I think they’re just answering some questions so they know more about what they want their careers to be.

What rules do you live by? I have a fear that if I give into a temptation of quitting, I’ll open a Pandora’s Box to make it much easier to quit the next time. So I have many quirks that a psychiatrist would have a ball with. I only wear black underwear when doing a seminar; I wear a Jerry Lewis cufflink on my left arm, and a Dean Martin one on my right; I’ll pick up a USA Today sitting outside my hotel room, but won’t read it until the wheels have lifted on the plane, as a treat to myself. I’ll never drink the night before a seminar — I believe doing so would open the door to not run the best race I possibly could. Some of it is superstition, and some of it is probably crossing the line.

So you’re kind of like George Clooney’s character in Up In The Air. I measure speakers by their mileage in the air. I understood on a deep level what it felt like to have that addiction to travel that was portrayed in the movie.

Favorite quote? “We weren’t put on this earth to make a living, we were put on this earth to make a difference.” During my first two years in the business, I was caught up in making a living. My travel went up to over 200 nights a year, and the more I went out, the more money I made. Limos came to my house. But then one day, my wife sat me down and told me we didn’t need all that stuff. Now, I balance my family and career, and feel like I make a difference because I help others become more successful. I never stay at work past 5 p.m. so I can spend evenings with my family.

Jim Carrey in the movie "A Series of Unfortunate Events." Photo credit: hollywoodjesus.com

Does being positive 24/7 ever get tiring? I live in the positive, and that’s not crap. I’m not bullshitting you. The only time I had serious trouble with that was on 9/11 – I couldn’t think of anything positive, and there was nowhere to go mentally.

If you could be reincarnated into someone dead or alive, who would it be? Jim Carrey.

Sense of humor: I never tell jokes, but I can have you falling out of your seat laughing. I have go-to lines, but you’ll never hear me say, “Two guys walked into a barber shop…”

LAUNCHING YOUR CAREER>>
Want a job based on inspiring others? Rob Jolles offers the steps to get there.
1. You need to be energized by getting up, performing, teaching, and motivating others. You also have to like to write, since you need to study and know your subject matter.

2. A job as an entry-level training specialist is a great place to start. It’s the step before becoming a professional speaker. As a professional speaker, if you do a good job, everyone knows it. But if you don’t do a good job, everyone also knows it. If that scares you, don’t be a trainer. But if that makes you smile, let’s keep talking. At the end of day, I’m just a training specialist on steroids.

3. Remember the quote by Jerry Lewis: “If you finish a performance and you’re not sweating, you’re an amateur.” Not only will I sweat [during seminars], but I will very rarely wipe it away. I want people to see me go across the stage and think: wow, that guy is really working.

How do you prepare for interviews or presentations? Any superstitious quirks? Share them by commenting below! To learn more about Rob Jolles and professional speaking, visit jolles.com. You can also follow Rob on Twitter at @Jolles.