who’s that colonel…
that fine foxy colonel?
Who's that colonel (who's that colonel)
Sexy colonel (who's that colonel). Beautiful colonel (who's that
Real fine colonel (who's that colonel). He should dance upon a
Any gift I could bring,
give him anything, he’s the king. If he would just do what I say! *
He heard people say that he could not
package and promote a pop singer in the same way he had promoted his circus
acts. He heard, and listened somewhat as he was busy building Elvis
Presley. He displayed a ruthless devotion to Elvis Presley’s interests
as he managed his career. Elvis himself said he did not think he would
have been a big star at all without Colonel Parker in command. The
colonel created the product, and then controlled and influenced every business
decision of Elvis’s singing and acting career.
Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk was born and
baptized in the Netherlands. Andreas left his homeland and, regardless
of his citizenship, joined the US Army. His base commander in Hawaii was
Captain Tom Parker. In an early example of identity adaptation, Andreas
van Kuijk became Tom Parker after he left the army and joined the next circus
in his life.
circus to another, to another, versions of Tom Parker worked as a country
music promoter after leaving the big top and sideshows. Governor Jimmie
Davis granted him the rank and title of Colonel for his work in the circus of
Colonel Tom Parker worked
with Hank Snow and other country stars. Snow was mentoring a kid from
Memphis named Elvis Presley. In a bluster of classic carnival
maneuverings, the Colonel took over in 1955. He got Elvis sold from Sun
Records to RCA Records, had Elvis record a song co-written by his friend Mae
Axton, and with “Heartbreak Hotel” began spinning Elvis into stardom.
After his own army duty
and seemingly infinite reels of Elvis movies, the 1968 Elvis wanted to get
back to being Elvis the singing star. In a rare defiance of Colonel
Parker’s script for his life, Elvis and producer Steve Binder staged a
television comeback special that had him and band mates DJ Fontana and Scotty
Moore singing the old hits. Everyone liked it. Always thinking
about the next Elvis deal, the Colonel got busy. He booked Elvis live
around the country, and negotiated a contract with the International Hotel in
Las Vegas. Many times, with merchandising deals and other items, Colonel
Parker made more money than Elvis. Elvis was happy, somewhat, performing
live, and the Colonel was happy counting his money and gambling it away.
The combination of Elvis’s
talent and appeal, with the Colonel’s unique promotional talent and deal
making ability, was a lucrative match for both men. They had enough,
maybe just enough, loyalty and respect for each other to weather any career
storm together. Elvis on occasion would instruct someone to ‘tell Parker
he’s fired’ but it never took. They had their own unspoken vows, for
better or for worse, until death do us part.
After many spats and
disputes with the Presley estate, the Colonel agreed to accept two million
dollars in 1983, drop any further claims and move on, back to Las Vegas to
work as an entertainment advisor. Colonel Tom Parker was an
extraordinary promoter responsible for building what is still today one of the
world’s biggest brands.
He and Elvis together,
were just hunka chunka burnin’ love taking care of business.
* * * With love and peace
to Rudolph, Ronald, Ernie, Marvin and O’Kelly Isley, Jr. and Chris Jasper for
the great 1973 release of “That Lady, Pts. 1 and 2”, and much thanks to Ernie
for the beautiful guitar work, as always.