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How important was the Colonel ?

Fri May 23, 2003 5:18 am

Would Elvis' career in the long term have been better without Colonel Parker? It seems that the Colonel liked to keep Elvis confined to the movies then concerts.. and taking 50 % of his earnings when 25 would seem to be good enough ...By the seventies was he really needed? couldn't his road manager have run the tours by himself and have traveled With Elvis to places like Europe where there would have been no holding him back..and maybe a manager who cared alittle more about Elvis' well being besides the almighty dollar? Did Elvis just feel that he had no choice but to keep him on as manager?

Colonel

Fri May 23, 2003 5:27 am

He was fine for Elvis at the outset. As Elvis' fame grew he should have turned over the reigns in much the same way Bob Neil did. Elvis needed an Agency handling him complete with nutritionist, phsycologist, the whole nine yards. You will never see another Superstar the caliber of Elvis being so mismanaged.
The money I don't have a problem with. Like Elvis said, no sooner can I roll it out the backdoor the Colonel has another truckload coming in the front.

Tony

The Colonel

Fri May 23, 2003 5:42 am

There are probably a lot of different opinions on this,so here goes mine.
I can find no evidence that the ol Colonel was anything other than
a parasite on Elvis.It was Hank Snow who bought E to the attention of RCA.
By the time He had a couple of hit records,the movie companys were
already interested.There is also a theory put forth in the otherwise
execrable Goldman biography that suggests it was the Colonel who
maneuvered Elvis into the army,the most diastrous event in his career,if not his life.It was Colonel who most ill advisedly signed E to long term movie contracts.And Steve Binder deserves the credit for the
awesome 68 comeback special.(The old man wanted Elvis to do xmas and religious songs,remember?)And,he lowballed Elvis" salary in Vegas as payback for his gambling debts.He wouldnt let Elvis tour overseas,out of
fear of trying to get a passport(he was an illegal).The idea that the drugs
might have been discovered was a cruel and self serving excuse.He kept his "boy" touring,working him like a dog until the end of his life.In 1983
he even had the gall to claim that Elvis was "heartbreaking to try and manage".Before this comes up somewhere else,Elvis was indeed a grown man capable of charting his own career.On that note I refer doubters to
Ellen Dundys book"Elvis and Gladys".While theconspiracy theories may
be a little over the top,I believe there was some truth to them.Actually I think Brian Epstien would have been a better manager(just as Columbia or
Capitol would have served him better as record co.s).So,theres my opinion.Im sure there are oter posters who may defend Parker,but you will never convince me he was good for Elvis.The reverse is true.Oh yes,I think he also ripped Elvis off big time.Thanks for listening.

Fri May 23, 2003 8:23 am

For me after the 50s, Elvis would have been much better off with another manager than Colonel Parker. Parker would have made a decent manager for the likes of Fabian or Frankie Avalon or Bobby Rydell but, he wasn't designed to work for a genuinely creative and committed artist.

First, let me say though that he definitely deserves credit for what he did from 1955-1957. He had a vision (shared by Elvis) on breaking Elvis at a national level. This included not just getting Elvis signed to RCA but also on the value of television as a promotional tool and getting Elvis into movies. Also he worked to gain Elvis artistic control at RCA (not that the label knew two bits about rock but Parker made it so that Elvis recorded at his leisure) and the early contracts with RCA were favorable compared to what other artists of the day received.

Other than that he went straight downhill because of a number of killer flaws. First and most importantly he never put Elvis' interest first. In 1973 when RCA bought out Elvis' royalties on his back catalogue, Parker wound up making more money than Elvis on the deal. This should never happen in a manager/client relationship.

Worse in this regard is that he never realized the value of keeping Elvis happy. Every time Elvis' interest was engaged the results were spectacularly successful. However, if you let the man get bored and the returns dwindled with each season. After the 60s, it was obvious that a routine was the worst thing for Elvis. So what does Parker do after Elvis breaks free from the movie contracts, he binds Elvis into a neverending tour.

An equally crucial flaw is that Parker failed to recognize changes in the industry. He never recognized that in the late 60s, the industry expanded so much that top quality songwriters no longer needed to have Elvis Presley record their songs to sell a million copies. This led to Elvis getting access only to original material far beneath his talent. This didn't matter so much to Parker who never saw a connection between quality and commercial success. Though one look at the dismal sales of the Speedway and the Top 10 sales of Elvis-TV Special, released only a few months later, should have made the point obvious.

His greed and his desire to keep Elvis in the dark squandered many great opportunities for Elvis. Perhaps the most intriguing of these was Lieber and Stoller's desire to star Elvis in a musical version of "Walk on the Wild Side". What work might have Elvis done if he had gotten a chance to collaborate more often first hand with songwriters.

Another example of Parker missing a change in the industry is Elvis' album release schedule in the 70s. While other artists released (maybe) one blockbuster album per year, squeezing the maximum profits from that one record, Parker and RCA kept to the same saturation schedule of the 50s.

Perhaps the most damning flaw was Parker's lack of faith in Elvis' talent. That's why he sold Elvis short in Vegas. That's why he didn't put Elvis in big arenas until the Beatles and other artist had broken the ground and that's why he also didn't pursue better roles for Elvis. He only took chances when his back was pushed against the wall.

People say Elvis was a grown man and could make his own decisions. That's true but, he really didn't have anything to compare Parker against. It's not like Elvis was surrounded by people with a lot of business savvy.

Fri May 23, 2003 8:25 am

One thing I have to address though is that Columbia would not have been a good record company for Elvis. Their A&R man in the 50s Mitch Miller absolutely hated rock and roll and probably would have saddled Elvis with what the awful arrangements he did for other artists. The best thing that ever happened to Elvis came when RCA outbid Columbia for that contract. At least RCA had the good sense to leave the man alone even if they didn't always like what he was doing.

Fri May 23, 2003 10:41 am

One reason the Colonel always opted for the quick cash imo because he feared getting busted as an illegal alien. His "snowman" policy - according to Hopkins' 1970 tome - was to be able to "melt and disappear" if need be.
Exit strategy. Take the money and run.

(NOTE: When Hopkins uncovered references to this "melting snowman" thing he had no clue Parker's secret identity - it's only now to read that passage that it gives you a cold chill to know what it means.)

Despite Parker's intentional self-serving mythic mis-proportions, Parker should not take any credit for Elvis Presley's singing voice, nor Elvis' looks nor even the screaming girls nor the sales that created each of Elvis' #1 hits.

The things that make Elvis historically worthy and unforgettable have nothing to do with Tom Parker nor RCA - they have to do with Elvis and the interactive loyalty and ecstasy between he and his fans. Period.

It's the mutual magic of him and us, baby.
Always has.
We made Elvis. He made us.



I could get into lengthy writing about my perspective on this topic How important was the Colonel ? but it would just raise my blood pressure.

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Last edited by Graceland Gardener on Fri May 23, 2003 10:52 am, edited 2 times in total.

Fri May 23, 2003 10:49 am

Would Elvis' career in the long term have been better without Colonel Parker?


Yes.

By the seventies was he really needed?


No.

couldn't his road manager have run the tours by himself and have traveled With Elvis to places like Europe where there would have been no holding him back..and maybe a manager who cared alittle more about Elvis' well being besides the almighty dollar?


Yes and yes.

Did Elvis just feel that he had no choice but to keep him on as manager?


Yes.

There's a book due out in June that may help you even more. It's called "Elvis and The Colonel" by Alanna Nash. Check it out.

Fri May 23, 2003 1:02 pm

I so wanted to respond to this, but you guys have more-or-less said it all !

Yes, Parker & his showbiz contacts opened doors for Elvis in the early years [up to his army service].

From 1960, Parker was a drag on Elvis career.

Parker was essentially a small-time operator.

Elvis outgrew him.

In 1955, he promised Elvis fame & riches.

And he delivered in double-quick time !

Because of this, Elvis was in awe of him for the rest of his life.

Colin B

Fri May 23, 2003 1:12 pm

Parker was extremely important for Elvis' career.... I think that without him Elvis wouldn't be the icon that he is today...

The Colonel brought Elvis to heaven, and took him to hell...

Fri May 23, 2003 5:55 pm

I am looking forward to the Alanna Nash book in June.

One question about the deal made with RCA in 1973:

Who initiated this deal? The Colonel? Elvis? RCA? Who?


(I understand the details of the deal itself but I'm not clear on who actually initiated it)

Fri May 23, 2003 7:22 pm

I agree the colonol didn't care for elvis other then him being a cash cow. Though there are so many factors, it is impossible to make a assumption that he wouldn't have died or had a better career with somebody else.

Sat May 24, 2003 2:14 am

Elvis signed a deal with the devil to get famous, and the devil was Tom Parker.

Sat May 24, 2003 10:08 am

It's all hindsight now but allegedly Elvis pushed for the deal but not in so many words. Elvis basically told the Colonel in 1973 "find me some money". Apparently, Priscilla came up for a new divorce settlement which put a further strain on Elvis' finances along with the Colonel's bite and his own wild spending.

It's hard to know now came up with that idea now though. The Colonel and RCA officials are the source for most of the information on the background on that deal. Both had to deal with CYA. For the Colonel, he had to place the deal on Elvis because of the fact that if it were his idea it would destroy his reputation as businessman and deal maker. This deal turned out to make Sam Phillips selling Elvis' contract for a mere $35,000 seem like a stroke of genius. The catalogue had already made money probably twice over by 1976. In 1973 they licensed the masters to Brookville Marketing for a TV compilation that sold over 3,000,000 copies. Additionally, the two Legendary Performer albums moved over half a million apiece, Further releases like "Welcome to My World" and "Pure Gold" also approached the half million mark. Elvis' death made the deal an absolute bonanza. Elvis had 15 LPs vault back onto the charts in the weeks following his death. Since then the music has sold millions and millions in the US alone. So, it was a BAD deal.

RCA, on the other hand, has a motive to place the deal with Elvis because otherwise it makes them look like conspirators with Parker. It also appears that took advantage of an artist who as much as anyone was responsible for the label's financial success from 1956 on.

Elvis did sign the deal but he had bad management and when you need money you do dumb things. Elvis should have developed a stronger affinity for money and he could have avoided this calamity.