Colonel Tom Parker

June 26, 1909 Breda, Netherlands  
  January 21, 1997 Palm Springs, Nevada  
For many years Parker claimed to have been U.S. born,
but it eventually emerged that he was born in
Breda, Netherlands to Dutch parents.
He had ten brothers and sisters and
attended the Breda South High School.





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 20, 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.

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 sister Adriana had passed away a few years 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". Biographies showed that Colonel Parker asked Elvis Presley to perform more and more concerts because he was addicted to gambling and needed the cash.



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 ofAfter Presley's death in 1977, Parker became embroiled in legal disputes with the singer's estate and with his ex-wife over claims that he had brought forward Elvis's death by frequently jumping out on him during his most pill addled days.



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, although they never signed a contract, they shook hands and kept their word for their entire life together, 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.

Parker eventually agreed in 1983 to sell his masters of some of Presley's major recordings to RCA for $2 million and to drop any claims he had to Presley's estate. Parker moved to Las Vegas in 1980 and worked as an "entertainment adviser" for Hilton Hotels; the disputes with the Presley estate did not alienate him entirely from his most high-profile client. Parker appeared at posthumous events honoring Presley, such as the ceremonies marking the tenth anniversary of the singer's death and the 1993 issuing of the United States Postal Service stamp honoring the King of Rock and Roll.


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