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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 colonel)
Real fine colonel (who's that colonel)He should dance upon a string. 

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. 

From one 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 Louisiana politics. 

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.  

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* * * 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.  

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