By Anna-Marie Menhenott
PORT ST. LUCIE -- Some people strive for a lifetime to impersonate one of the most recognizable singers in the world. Others, well, it just seems to happen.
Darrell Dunhill became Elvis without much effort. While singing karaoke at a restaurant where he worked in 1994, unbeknownst to him, he embarked on a lifelong journey that would liken to Elvis in more ways than one.
His velvety voice was remarkably "Elvis-like." He would sing All Shook Up because it was one of the only songs he knew all the words to. Soon, he began to DJ for the karaoke company, which meant he had to sing more and more. He added a few more Elvis songs to his repertoire and it seemed to take off from there.
"I had to sing," Mr. Dunhill said. "While working with the karaoke company, if there's nobody signed up to sing, the DJ has to fill in. There were lots of times that I had to put my best foot forward, so to speak, and belt out a tune. I knew I could sing in key, but I didn't really think much of it. But then people started coming to karaoke just to hear me sing Elvis, and that's how the Elvis impersonations started."
In 1995, Mr. Dunhill spent New Year's in Las Vegas. From there he learned how to take his show to the next level. From $10,000 for Elvis jumpsuits to perfecting his high-energy show, Mr. Dunhill has turned his once karaoke-themed gig into an unforgettable performance.
"It's funny. A lot of men come to the show somewhat begrudgingly," Mr. Dunhill said. "But, once they're there, they really enjoy it. I've had husbands come up to me afterwards and tell me they only came because their wife made them, but they enjoyed it so much more than they ever expected."
Mr. Dunhill has toured Japan, doing 150 shows in 60 days. He has also toured the United States and has incorporated three eras of Elvis into his performance.
"There's something for everyone," Mr. Dunhill said. "There are more songs than just Elvis favorites, but he's the core of my performance. I love to interact with the audience so I never know which way the show will go."
Mr. Dunhill's life seems to shadow that of Elvis', even as much as being feared dead.
"Not too long ago, another local Elvis impersonator passed away and many people thought it was me," Mr. Dunhill said. "People stopped coming to my salon for haircuts because they thought I was no longer there. I had people come up to me in restaurants and say, 'you're really still alive.' It's been surreal."
Mr. Dunhill's hair business has suffered because of the mistaken identity, but he tries to keep a sense of humor about it. "I just thought to myself, all the people thought I was dead and not one of them sent me flowers."
Darrell Dunhill will take the Port St. Lucie Civic Center state on March 29 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available in advance or at the door. For more information, call (772) 804-4488.