just gimme some truth about colonel parker

Es­ti­mated reading time is 8 min­utes.

BAZ LUHRMAN’S “ELVIS” has made thou­sands of know-nothings into overnight ex­perts on both Presley and Tom Parker. While I loved the movie (and ap­pre­ciate the Hol­ly­wood For­eign Press As­so­ci­a­tion rec­og­nizing Austin But­ler’s phe­nom­enal per­for­mance), Luhrman took some se­rious “artistic li­cense” with many facts about both men’s ca­reers. So here’s a little truth about Colonel Parker.

Un­for­tu­nately, the many lib­er­ties taken with the facts have led to a flood of mis­in­for­ma­tion about Presley and Parker on the in­ternet. Given the stag­gering amount of in­cor­rect “in­for­ma­tion” al­ready there about all things Elvis, this has made finding the truth for most folks a dif­fi­cult task.

Here’s some truth about Colonel Parker that de­bunks a few nasty ru­mors about the man.

Michael Werner de­liv­ered the two-part ar­ticle “A New Light On Colonel Tom Parker” to the Elvis Aus­tralia web­site in 2018. Among the “loads of the worst imag­in­able sto­ries and ru­mors are being told about the man who di­rected Elvis’ ca­reer,” Werner sought to an­swer what is truth and what is false.

“It’s about time to take a closer look at the most preva­lent sto­ries, ru­mors, claims, and opin­ions about this enig­matic and flam­boyant per­son­ality. This ar­ticle ex­plic­itly tar­gets fans who are willing to take on a dif­ferent per­spec­tive and face some sturdy facts.”

Below I listed twenty-three ru­mors and mis­un­der­stand­ings that Werner pre­sented in his ar­ticle. His con­clu­sion for most of them is that they are not true. 


Truth about Colonel Parker: photo of Colonel Parker and Elvis Presley used to plug their latest cinematic achievement, Fun In Acapulco, in 1963
The Parker and Presley posing for a photo to plug their latest cin­e­matic achieve­ment, Fun In Aca­pulco, in 1963. It was a silly movie that fea­tured some of the sil­liest songs that Elvis had recorded up until then. Who can forget “The Bull­fighter Was A Lady” and “There’s No Room To Rhumba In A Sport’s Car”? (What a single they would have made!) Why did he do it? Money, honey!

Colonel wasn’t a real Colonel

Wern­er’s in­tro­duc­tion to the first sec­tion of his ar­ticle in­cluded this statement:

“Just as his client is pos­sibly the most fa­mous en­ter­tainer of all time, Parker is the pub­licly best-known artist man­ager, be­sides per­haps the Bea­tles’ Brian Ep­stein. In con­trast to Ep­stein, how­ever, Parker al­ways ‘en­joyed’ an ex­tremely bad rep­u­ta­tion among his client’s fans; loads of the worst imag­in­able sto­ries and ru­mors are being told about the man who di­rected Elvis’ career.”

In the mid-’60s, I was a reg­ular reader of the UK mag­a­zine Elvis Monthly (and how it found its way to Leo Matus’ news­stand in Wilkes-Barre, Penn­syl­vania, back then I never un­der­stood.) In its pages, Parker was revered as a key part of Pres­ley’s suc­cess for most of the singer’s ca­reer by fans and writers alike.

We had nothing sim­ilar to this pub­li­ca­tion in the US but I also fol­lowed Bill­board, Cash Box, Record World, and Va­riety and any men­tion of Parker was usu­ally one of re­spect. Ques­tions of the Colonel’s ef­fec­tive­ness didn’t re­ally crop up reg­u­larly until the ’70s and his en­scon­ce­ment of “his boy” in Las Vegas.

Of course, that’s been more than fifty years, so it may seem like the Ciolonel has been the bad guy for longer.

I have listed five of nine is­sues ad­dressed in Part 2 (and I made minor changes in a few ques­tions, usu­ally for styl­istic purposes):

•  Colonel Parker was an il­legal im­mi­grant and held this status until the end of his life.

    Yes and no.

•  Elvis’ world tour failed be­cause the Colonel didn’t have a passport.

    Not true.

•  The Colonel wasn’t a real Colonel.

    Not true (de­pending on your ac­cep­tance of the title as an hon­orary gesture).

•  Without Elvis, the Colonel would never have been successful.

    Not true.

•  Elvis would have made it big with any other manager.

    Un­know­able but probable.

Werner closed this first part with a gen­eral state­ment about Park­er’s role in Pres­ley’s career:

“Parker wasn’t Elvis’ sur­ro­gate fa­ther, nor his pastor, nor his ther­a­pist, nor his mu­sical con­sul­tant. Elvis had more than enough people around him to ful­fill these needs. Colonel Parker was the busi­ness man­ager of Elvis Presley; his only job was to get the highest amount of money pos­sible out of what­ever Elvis did ar­tis­ti­cally. That’s ex­actly what he did. Not more, but also not less.”

Please un­der­stand that I re­duced the 2,100 words in the first part of Wern­er’s ar­ticle to a handful of“Yes” and “Not true” re­sponses above. To read the re­sponses to the topics above, click here.


Truth about Colonel Parker: poster for Elvis Presley's abysmal 1965 movie Harum Scarum.
No one ever forced Elvis to make a single one of his many lousy movies or record a single one of the lousy songs as­so­ci­ated with those movies (such as the dreadful Harum Scarum from 1965). Why did he do it? Money, honey!

Money came first for Elvis

“By the way, even if most fans might not like to hear this: Money came first for Elvis, too, so in most cases when he had to choose be­tween artistic claim and com­mer­cial suc­cess, he would rather take the money. Also, he surely wouldn’t have hired Colonel Parker as his man­ager if he hadn’t cared that much for fi­nan­cial profit. A lifestyle as costly as Elvis’ had to be paid for somehow.”

I have listed five of four­teen is­sues ad­dressed in Part 2:

•  After the army, the Colonel drove the rocker out of Elvis and soft­ened him.

   Not true.

•  Since 1967, Parker col­lected half of Elvis’ earnings.


•  Elvis was of­fered merely in­fe­rior song ma­te­rial be­cause Parker forced song­writers to give a part of their roy­al­ties to Elvis.

    Not true (al­though few songs were recorded by Elvis un­less writers agreed to give up half of their pub­lishing rights—not song­writing royalties—to one of Pres­ley’s pub­lishing com­pa­nies, Elvis Presley Music and Gladys Music).

•  The Colonel did nothing or not enough to get Elvis away from pre­scrip­tion drugs.

    Not true.

•  Be­cause of Colonel Parker, Elvis had to make un­de­manding movies in the ’60s.

    Not true.

Werner closed the second part with this ob­ser­va­tion about Pres­ley’s lack of quality films:

“If Elvis had wanted to shoot a crit­i­cally ac­claimed movie, he could have pro­duced one at any time that would have been tailor-made for him. In­stead, he never re­jected a con­tract for an un­de­manding but well-paid movie.

The bottom line is, he ob­vi­ously wasn’t as dis­sat­is­fied within his movie ca­reer as is often claimed, or at least, he just didn’t care enough for be­coming a se­rious actor to even take the smallest risk.”

I made a few com­ments about Elvis and money in the cap­tions of the photos on this page. I hope the con­de­scen­sion is easily understood.

Please un­der­stand that I re­duced the 2,900 words in the second part of Wern­er’s ar­ticle to a handful of “Yes” and “Not true” re­sponses above.  To read the re­sponses to the topics above, click here.


Truth about Colonel Parker: 8-track cartridge tape of the abysmal Having Fun With Elvis album from 1974.
In 1974, Parker as­sem­bled snip­pets of patter (mostly lame jokes) that Presley made while per­forming on stage. He sold these as sou­venirs at Pres­ley’s con­certs. Elvis okayed its re­lease to the public later in the year. Why did he do it? Money, honey!

Not one concrete example

A few sit­u­a­tions call for ex­trap­o­la­tion or in­fer­ring and I or the reader may not nec­es­sarily agree with his con­clu­sion. For ex­ample, Parker ex­pected song­writers to sign over half their pub­lishing roy­al­ties in ex­change for Elvis recording their songs. Fans and critics alike have as­sumed for decades that this cost Presley many op­por­tu­ni­ties at get­ting the best new material.

Werner notes that “there is not one con­crete ex­ample of a song that wasn’t recorded by Elvis for these rea­sons and then re­sulted in a no­table suc­cess for an­other artist to prove this assertion.”

This state­ment does not take into con­sid­er­a­tion that many writers simply never even con­sid­ered sub­mit­ting any of their better songs to Elvis be­cause of this publishing-sharing. Ei­ther they found it rep­re­hen­sible or, by 1962 or so, Pres­ley’s sales had plum­meted from 2,000,000 each to 750,000, a figure other artists could match.


Truth about Colonel Parker: photo of Colonel Parker with a poster promoting the release of two gospel singles for Easter 1966.
Parker in early 1966 with an in-store poster pro­moting the re­lease of two sin­gles fea­turing four songs from an album re­leased in 1960. Both records were among the lowest selling of Pres­ley’s ca­reer until then but even then, both prob­ably made money!

A little truth about Colonel Parker

Werner de­voted more time to the issue The Colonel didn’t be­lieve in Elvis and didn’t sup­port his artistic am­bi­tions at all; he just re­garded him as a product than he did to most of the other topics. There he noted:

“Parker had his prin­ci­ples and eth­ical stan­dards that were more im­por­tant to him than a few dol­lars more. This be­came most ob­vious when after Elvis’ death everyone who had de­liv­ered him a pizza felt ap­pointed to write a book about Elvis. Parker could easily have earned a for­tune re­vealing tons of pri­vate de­tails. He never did so. His loy­alty did not end with Elvis’ death; not even with his own death, as he took every­thing to his grave.

Parker knew about his own bad image and felt mis­un­der­stood and un­fairly judged to­wards the end of his life. But he ac­cepted his fate and never tried to jus­tify any­thing be­cause it was more im­por­tant to him not to in­flict any damage to Elvis’ memory, while most of his so-called ‘friends’ would have in­stantly be­trayed all his se­crets for a few bucks. Thus, Parker proved char­acter, manner, and class until the very end.”

Werner also made this observation:

“Parker wasn’t Elvis’ sur­ro­gate fa­ther, nor his pastor, nor his ther­a­pist, nor his mu­sical con­sul­tant. Elvis had more than enough people around him to ful­fill these needs. Colonel Parker was the busi­ness man­ager of Elvis Presley; his only job was to get the highest amount of money pos­sible out of what­ever Elvis did ar­tis­ti­cally. That’s ex­actly what he did. Not more, but also not less.”

To which I can only say, “Doncha think it’s time we ac­knowl­edged this?”

Here’s some truth about Colonel Parker that de­bunks a few of the nas­tier ru­mors about the man.. Click To Tweet

Truth about Colonel Parker: photo of Tom Hanks as Colonel Parker from the 2022 movie Elvis.

FEA­TURED IMAGE: The “facts” and at­ti­tude of Elvis were all Baz Luhrman’s. With as­sis­tance from sev­eral others, he pro­duced the movie and wrote both the story and the screen­play. And, of course, he di­rected it. His ver­sion of Colonel Tom Parker was one of al­most comic book-level vil­lainy, which Tom Hanks easily por­trayed in one of his many ex­cel­lent per­for­mances in an un­likely role. Someone should con­sider making a real bi­o­graph­ical film about Parker be­cause he was cer­tainly an in­ter­esting individual.


Truth about Colonel Parker: photo of Elvis in his gold suit from 1957.


As we know, after Parker dis­cov­ered the inner gam­bler, things went kablooie for his re­la­tion­ship with his client, es­pe­cially in the areas of fidu­ciary duty and that crazy little thing called in­tegrity. I highly rec­om­mend a thor­ough reading of Elvis Inc. – The Fall and Rise of the Presley Em­pire by Sean O’Neal.

Fi­nally, the title of this ar­ticle (“Just Gimme Some Truth About Colonel Parker”) was in­spired by John Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth on the IMAGINE album from 1971.



2 thoughts on “just gimme some truth about colonel parker”

  1. Don’t agree with “Why did he do it? Money, honey!”, but on Elvis’ lack of knowl­edge on the Busi­ness side. 

    At­tached quote from YouTube Elvis in­ter­view; July 1972...

    “I had thought they would… give me a chance to show some kind of acting ability or do a very in­ter­esting story, but it did not change. It did not change. And so I be­came very dis­cour­aged. They couldn’t have paid me any amount of money in the world to make me feel any self-satisfaction in­side.” — Elvis Presley

    Un­for­tu­nately, Elvis didn’t sur­round him­self with people who knew the Busi­ness side, but left all that for his dad to handle.

    • We know he knew that many of the movies he was making were dreadful and he hated making them.

      We know that he knew that many of the sound­track songs he was recording were garbage and he hated recording them.

      But even though the sales of most soundtrack-related records plum­meted after the Blue Hawaii album and the “Can’t Help Fallin in Love” / “Rock-a-Hula Baby” single in 1962, they still kept making money.

      And he kept making them, year after year.

      Be­cause they kept making money for everyone.

      When sound­track sin­gles and al­bums started selling less than 200,000 copies each in 1967—that is, they started not making much money for anyone—things changed in 1968.

      But it was waaaay too late to sal­vage the so-called “Elvis Movie.”

      Had Elvis taken the role of Joe Buck in 1969’s Mid­night Cowboy and pulled it off in­stead of making Change of Habit, Elvis might have found the type of Tin­sel­town suc­cess he wanted.

      Fi­nally, one of my fav­er­avest tracks from Pres­ley’s first long-player: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PjhaJLkQXLE


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