Thursday, August 16, 2007

Colonel Tom Parker
"Colonel" Tom Parker (born Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk on June 26, 1909January 21, 1997), was an American/Dutch entertainment impresario known best as the manager of Elvis Presley.

Parker's involvement in the music industry began as a music promoter in the late 1940s, working with such country music stars as Minnie Pearl, Hank Snow, and Eddy Arnold, as well as film star Tom Mix. During this time he received the honorary title of "Colonel" in 1948 from Jimmie Davis, the governor of Louisiana, in return for work he did on Davis' election campaign.
On August 18, 1955, Parker became Presley's manager officially, by contract, and in November he convinced RCA Records to buy Presley out from Sun Records for $35,000, a sizable sum for that time. With his first RCA single, Heartbreak Hotel, Presley graduated from rumour to bona-fide recording star.
It is debatable whether Presley would have become the superstar he became without Parker, and it's likewise debatable to what extent Parker's management of the King of Rock and Roll was Svengali-like. Parker held the reins of Presley's singing and acting career for the rest of Presley's life and was said to be instrumental in virtually every business decision that Presley made—including his decision to cut back on recording and stop touring after returning from his stint in the United States Army in 1960 in favor of a film career (from 1960 to 1967-68) that was lucrative in terms of his bank account but, to many critics and fans, bankrupting in terms of Presley's music quality.
It took the energetic 1968 television special, Elvis, and a subsequent series of stellar recording sessions in Memphis, Tennessee, to restore Elvis Presley's musical reputation. Though it is open to debate as to whether he was allowed much choice in the matter, Parker allowed both to happen with little impediment.

Surprising Elvis
As Presley's fame grew, people became interested in Parker as well. For a time he lied about his childhood, claiming to have been born in Huntington, West Virginia, and to have run away at an early age to join a circus run by an uncle. The truth about his early years was revealed when his family in the Netherlands recognized him in photographs of him standing next to Elvis; this claim was confirmed when Parker tried to avert a lawsuit in 1982 by asserting that he was a Dutch citizen. In 1993 Dutch TV director Jorrit van der Kooi talked to him in Dutch about his family background in Holland. Parker was not aware that his brother had passed away the year before. Van der Kooi also filmed the Colonel with a hidden camera while he was gambling in a casino in Las Vegas. This footage can be seen in the Dutch documentary "Looking for Colonel Parker".

Personal life
Parker's real place of birth was in Breda, Netherlands. Still carrying his baptism name, Andreas Cornelis {Dries) van Kuijk left his native land at about the age of 18, joined the United States Army, then changed his name to Tom Parker and became part of the circus world some time after leaving the Army. He also worked as a dogcatcher and a pet cemetery proprietor in Tampa, Florida in the 1940s.
Elvis fans have speculated that the reason Presley never performed abroad, which would likely have been a highly lucrative proposition, may have been that Parker was worried that, as a non-citizen, he would not have been able to acquire a US passport and may have been deported from the United States upon filing his application. In addition, applying for the citizenship required for a US passport would likely have exposed his carefully concealed foreign birth, even though as an army veteran and spouse of a US citizen he would have been entitled to US citizenship. Some have argued that the former argument neglects the fact that Presley toured Canada in 1957 with concerts in Toronto, Ottawa, and Vancouver; still, at the time of these concerts, crossing the US-Canada border did not require a passport.
NOTE: according to Red Robinson (Vancouver radio icon and MC of the Elvis concert in Vancouver in 1957) Colonel Parker did not accompany Elvis to this concert, but instead waited on the Washington State side of the U.S. border with Canada.