Love him or hate him, there is little doubt Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker was one of the most influential men in music history.
I met him only twice. Once at the Hilton Palacio Hotel on the River Walk in San Antonio and the other outside the Taylor Coleseum in Abilene, Texas. Both times I was scared.
In San Antonio he told us to “move it” when Elvis’ rhythm guitarist John Wilkerson and I were talking near the elevator on the hotel’s first floor. I moved!
In Abilene, I was handing out Texas Chapter of the Elvis Presley Fan Club flyers to those standing in the long entry lines to attend the concert.
“Let me see what you have there,” Parker demanded as he snapped one out of his hand.
With cigar in mouth, he quickly scanned the paper and looked me straight in the eyes. My heart started racing and I could feel my pulse in ears and temples.
“What is this, some kind of a college thing or something?”
“Yes Sir,” I started, agreeing with whatever he said.
He quickly folded it, placed it in his jacket pocket and walked away. For a least a month after that I wondered if I’d be getting some type of notice to halt and desist.
In October 2020, filming is to begin in Australia on a new Elvis biopic with Tom Parker playing the role of The Colonel.
On a hot Palm Springs June 26, in the 1970s Parker decided to give himself an unusual birthday surprise.
He made a call to RCA’s Hollywood offices and demanded to speak with the president of the record division.
“This is Colonel Parker. You know, Elvis and I for the past 20 years have shown great loyalty and love for RCA. We have been reliable, honest and done our best to make our relationship with you one that could be a model. So why, after all I have always done for you and for your company—why in God’s name!—would you stoop so low? This is an obvious attempt to humiliate me!”
The stunned executive immediately assured Parker that RCA had the utmost respect for him, and then carefully asked what happened to cause this concern.
Parker explained that he had never asked anything of RCA, had always been generous with the company, and so on, and really his birthday was not so important. But when someone from RCA had called to tell him the company was going to erect a giant billboard saying “Happy Birthday Colonel Parker, RCA Loves You” on the highway near his home, he gathered some of his closest friends and drove them out to see how much RCA loved him. And what did he discover? No billboard!
Feigning humiliation and tears, Parker hung up.
The RCA executive immediately located a Palm Springs billboard company and ordered Colonel Parker’s message to be put up on the largest billboard the company owned.
He called Parker back, apologized, and explained the billboard would be up by noon.
“I accept your apology,” said the Colonel. “I never asked for anything, you know, but thank you. I feel better.”
Parker then called three friends and they all piled in his Cadillac and drove to the outskirts of Palm Springs. There they laughed convulsively as they watched the Colonel’s giant birthday card being painted by the side of the highway.