Concept

Colonel Tom Parker

Summary
Thomas Andrew Parker (born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk; June 26, 1909 - January 21, 1997), commonly known as Colonel Parker, was a musical entrepreneur, best known for being Elvis Presley's manager. Parker was born in the Netherlands and entered the United States illegally when he was 20 years old. He adopted a new name and claimed to have been born in the United States. A carnival worker by background, Parker moved into music promotion in 1938, working with one of the first popular crooners, Gene Austin, and then country music singers Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, and Tommy Sands. He also assisted Jimmie Davis' campaign to become governor of Louisiana. As a reward, Davis gave him the honorary rank of "colonel" in the Louisiana State Militia. Parker encountered Presley in 1955 and, by 1956, had become his primary representative. With Parker's help, Presley signed a recording contract with RCA Victor, leading to his commercial breakthrough in 1956 with his sixth single, "Heartbreak Hotel" and propelling him to become one of the most popular and commercially successful entertainers in the world. Parker received more than half of the income from the enterprise, an unprecedented figure for a music manager. He negotiated Presley's lucrative merchandising deals and media appearances and influenced his personal life, including Presley's decisions to accept military service in 1958 and marry Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967. Parker encouraged Presley to make film musicals which became the focus of his career during his commercial decline in the 1960s until his 1968 comeback and return to touring. Parker's influence waned in later years, but he continued in his management role until Presley died in 1977. For the rest of his life, Parker managed the Presley estate. Having previously sold the rights to Presley's early recordings to RCA, he struggled to secure a steady income, and his financial situation worsened after he sustained significant gambling losses. Parker's final years were spent living in Las Vegas, in increasingly poor health, until he died in 1997.
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