Jan. 22 [Updated 9:00 EST] — Col. Tom Parker, who (depending on who you ask) either made Elvis Presley a star or siphoned profits from the late entertainer, died in Las Vegas on Tuesday at the age of 87 from complications surrounding a stroke.
Parker served as Presley’s manager from 1955 until the singer’s death in 1977.
Parker’s supporters hailed him as a shrewd, even legendary manager. They point to the deals Parker negotiated for Presley with RCA Victor, and the crucial early television appearances the Colonel brokered for Presley (especially on “The Ed Sullivan Show”).
Others saw Parker as a former circus con-man who took as much as 50 percent of Presley’s income at some points in the star’s career.
Regardless of your opinion of his methods, Parker had an indisputable effect on Elvis Presley and the history of rock and roll.
Parker got his start on the carnival circuit as the founder of the Great Parker Pony Circus and Colonel Tom Parker and
His Dancing Chickens. His “dancing” chickens were placed on a sawdust-covered hotplate where they hopped around, much to the crowd’s amusement. Parker then turned his sights to music, and managed country singers Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow before handling the King of Rock n’ Roll.
For the record, Parker picked up the honorary title of “Colonel” in 1948 from Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis.