One of the most controversial music managers ever
The Elvis Presley manager Colonel Tom Parker was born on this day in 1909
The world knew him as Colonel Tom Parker, the mighty manager of Elvis Presley, but, he was born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk on June 26, 1909 in Breda, Netherlands. not in Huntington, West Virginia as he claimed so many times and it wasn’t until his family in the Netherlands recognized him in photographs standing next to Presley, that Parker’s real identity was known. Parker first entered America illegally by jumping ship from his employer’s vessel, he returned to the Netherlands shortly after and returned two years later enlisted in the United States Army, taking the name “Tom Parker” from the officer who interviewed him, to disguise the fact he was an illegal immigrant. Following his discharge, Parker worked at a number of jobs, including food concessions and gaming carnivals and working short cons while growing an appetite on gambling and accumulating debts. During the 1950’s he first became interested in the music business as new and young singers started to emerge with the then newly-born Rock N’ Roll. Parker saw an opportunity on it, and started to manage Rock N’ Roll artists, eventually gaining a reputation for it. In early 1955, Parker became aware of a young singer named Elvis Presley, who was then signed by Sun Records. After taking the role of Presley’s manager, Parker persuaded RCA to buy Presley out from Sun for $40,000, and on November 21 Presley’s contract was officially transferred from Sun Records to RCA Victor. With his first RCA Victor single, “Heartbreak Hotel”, in 1956, Elvis Presley became a recording star, and a timeless icon to this day as we all know. But Parker, controversially took as much as 50 percent of what Elvis was paid. Even toward the end of Presley’s life. Presley once said of Parker, “I don’t think I’d have ever been very big if it wasn’t for him. He’s a very smart man.”During the 1960’s, as Elvis struggled to keep relevant, with new music trends and cultures emerging, Parker’s gambling really began to get out of hand. He eventually would set Elvis in Las Vegas during the 1970’s instead of booking worldwide concerts. Some speculate that the reason why Elvis wasn’t doing any concerts outside of the U.S, despite being the most famous singer in the world, was because of Parker who wanted to be all times with Elvis while he was touring and so, was worried that he would not have been able to acquire a U.S. passport and might even have been deported upon filing his application. Due to the 1940 Alien Registration Act he was not eligible for US citizenship through any means, as applying for the citizenship required for a US passport would probably have exposed his carefully concealed foreign birth. After the death of Presley in 1977, Parker remained a guardian of his image until the end of his life. He died on January 21, 1997, aged 87 in Las Vegas, Nevada His death certificate listed his country of birth as the Netherlands and his citizenship as American. He was born 109 years ago today.
Watch the ABC Nightline interview with Colonel Parker in 1987
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