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Mike Stone - Elvis Presley's Svengali Took 50%

April 29, 2024

Presley's manager was Col. Tom Parker.
That wasn't his real name. He wasn't even an
American but he had the special sauce
that made Elvis Presley a megastar.
Mike Stone thinks he was worth his
mega commission.
by Mike Stone
When you're in show business, it helps to have a Svengali, someone to manage, guide, and help create your career. In fact, without such a Svengali, many famous entertainers would have never gotten to first base in the music or movie industries.

Cher had Sonny Bono, a hit songwriter, without whom she'd have never amounted to anything.

The Sex Pistols had Malcolm McLaren, who created the group from scratch.

Frankie Avalon and Fabian had the Idolmaker himself, Bob Marcucci, who built both of their careers.

The Beatles had Brian Epstein managing their career, and some would say Theodor Adorno writing all of their songs.

Bono, McLaren, Marcucci, Epstein, and Adorno (if he did write songs for the Beatles) were directly responsible for the success of their protégés.

Of course, not every Svengali gets along well with every protege.

Paul Snider brutally murdered Dorothy Stratten.

Tippi Hedren, commenting on the one thing that no one in Hollywood was ever allowed to comment on, called Alfred Hitchcock a "fat pig."

And Elvis Presley frequently clashed with perhaps the greatest Svengali of them all - Colonel Tom Parker.

The Colonel Who Was Never a Colonel

Colonel Tom Parker was never a real colonel, his name wasn't Tom Parker, and he wasn't an American citizen. He was born Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk in the Netherlands in 1909 and immigrated to the United States illegally when he was twenty-years-old. As for the rank of colonel, it was an honorary title bestowed upon him by Governor Jimmie Davis of Louisiana for helping to get Davis elected.

In the make-believe land of entertainment, no one held any of those things against Parker. After all, anyone who could help Davis, a singer with no political experience, get elected as governor, and consequently reinvent his own life in such spectacular fashion, deserved to be called "colonel." For what it's worth, Davis wrote and recorded the immortal song "You Are My Sunshine."

Parker met Elvis Presley in 1955 and quickly became his "special advisor" and then his manager. Because Presley was still a minor, his parents had to sign the contract with Parker. A contract which gave the colonel 50% of Presley's earnings - for life.

When people outside of show business, and even some naive people in show business, hear about that they immediately balk. The idea of signing away 50% of one's earnings to a manager sounds like fraud, especially when the standard rate is 10%. But you have to remember that Parker was directly responsible for Presley's massive success. Without Parker, there's no Elvis Presley, as we know him today.

It was Parker who helped Elvis exit Sun Records and get signed by RCA Victor, where he became an instant million-selling artist. It was Parker who convinced Elvis to make movies and then set up and negotiated those deals. It was Parker who got Elvis's career back on track after he was discharged from the army. He was worth every penny of his 50% commission.

Presley and Parker fought frequently. In 1973, after a massive backstage argument, Presley fired Parker, who responded, "You can't fire me, I quit." After two weeks of trading insults, however, they decided to maintain their business relationship. Parker remained Presley's manager until his death, and then afterwords, running the Presley estate and merchandising scores of Elvis products.

Parker himself died at the age of 87.

Preying on the Young?

It's interesting to note how Parker and other Svengalis are attracted to youth. Elvis was twenty when he met his future manager, Parker. Cher was a sixteen-year-old waif when she met Sonny Bono. Both Frankie Avalon and Fabian were teenagers when Bob Marcucci stepped into their lives. Dorothy Stratten was seventeen-years-old and working at a Dairy Queen when Paul Snider promised he'd make her a star.

The basic premise of a Svengali finding a talented youngster and managing them to success is as old as "A Star is Born." Companies like Walt Disney have institutionalized the process.

If you want to make your mark in the world as a Svengali, find yourself a talented young teen to represent and sign them to a managerial contract. Of course, if you go by the rumored history of Mario Puzo's "The Godfather," you may find yourself confronted by someone else with a stake in your client's future; a stake bigger than yours; someone with no qualms about making you an offer you can't refuse.

Mike Stone is the author of the new book 101 Reasons Why You Might Have a Low IQ and Teen Boy's Success Book: the Ultimate Self-Help Book for Boys; Everything You Need to Know to Become a Man: 

Scruples - the game of moral dillemas

Comments for "Mike Stone - Elvis Presley's Svengali Took 50%"

MS said (April 30, 2024):

Was Elvis Jewish?

I remember reading that Elvis's Mother, Gladys, was Jewish, as well as Tom Parker, but most claim Parker was not.

Philip said (April 30, 2024):

Hello Henry your essay today on Elvis reminded me of a larger paper done by Miles Mathis here:

On Page 11 he goes into Col. Tom Parker quite a bit. He was more like a handler than an agent. Hopefully this is helpful.

Henry Makow received his Ph.D. in English Literature from the University of Toronto in 1982. He welcomes your comments at