Elvis career with The Colonel – royalties revelation, Vegas residence and court

Elvis Presley's life changed in 1955 when he crossed paths with Colonel Tom Parker.

This musical twist of fate undoubtedly set about the course that would change pop culture history forever – and create one of the world's biggest icons.

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However, while some feel that Colonel Tom exploited the singer's fame and wealth, others, including Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla, have since defended the manager and promoter.

Their partnership has also been brought onto the big screen recently in Baz Luhrman's Elvis biopic – but what part did the Colonel play in Elvis' career?

Here, Daily Star takes a closer look at the partnership between Elvis and Colonel Tom Parker.

Making Elvis a star

Colonel Tom Parker first met a young Elvis Presley in 1955 – and was intent on making the singer a huge success.

As part of his promoter role, Colonel negotiated Elvis' merchandising, TV appearances, and acting roles throughout his career.

He become a pivotal part of Elvis' life – signing multi million pound deals in the process – as well as pushing him towards making a series of film musicals.

Colonel Tom was also a big player in the Elvis 1968 Comeback Special, which shot the singer back into the limelight.

Tom Hanks, who recently played Colonel Tom in the 2022 Elvis biopic revealed on podcast Kermode and Mayo's Take that he was pivotal behind the singer's success – and was also the reason Elvis rarely appeared on TV after he hit the big time.

He said: "There’s this famous story about the early days of him handling Elvis and one of the first things he did was take him off television.

"As soon as everybody in America was talking about Elvis Presley, the Colonel said, ‘You will never do television again. You are never going to give away your talent for free. If anybody wants to hear you or see you, they're going to have to buy.’

"That's brilliant because the saga was, he said, ‘last year before I represented my boy, he had a million dollars’ worth of talent. And this year he has a million dollars.’

"That is a pretty basic understanding of the gospel according to Colonel Tom Parker."

However, despite making Elvis a star, their partnership was not without its issues.

Royalties revelation

Although Elvis sang some of the biggest records in history, including Jailhouse Rock, Suspicious Minds, The Wonder Of You and Devil In Disguise, Forbes reported the large majority of the royalties from Elvis' music were owned by record company RCA.

Sun Records, who Elvis signed a contract with in 1954, also sold his catalogue of songs made at the label to RCA.

However, in March 1973, Elvis and his manager Colonel Tom Parker and negotiated a lump sum in lieu of all future artist’s royalties for anything recorded up to that time, which included quite a substantial back catalogue at this time.

Elvis and Colonel Tom received £4.2m at the time, which they split equally between them.

However, this deal meant that Lisa Marie Presley did not receive any royalties from Elvis' music recorded between 1954-1973 – a period of time in which some of the singer's biggest hits were released – but did receive royalties on the music released between 1973-1977.

It is also reported that Colonel Tom Parker had a 50 per cent commission for his work with Elvis, meaning that the singer earned even less from his work and royalties during his lifetime.

After making the royalties deal with RCA in 1973, Colonel Tom Parker was entitled to a 50 per cent commission on Elvis' cut, as well as earning a fee for his work, leaving Elvis with only £1.5m from the deal.

Las Vegas residency

One year after Elvis' comeback special in 1968, the star decided that he wanted to perform live again and signed up for a residency in Las Vegas – organised by Colonel Tom.

Speaking about the opening night, Priscilla Presley revealed that one of the most emotional moments of the night was when Colonel Tom tried to find him at the end of the show.

She said: "The most touching moment was when Colonel Parker arrived with tears in his eyes, wanting to know where 'his boy' was."

Priscilla added: "Elvis came out of the dressing room and the two men embraced. I believe everyone felt their emotion in that moment."

After the success of the opening night, Elvis and Colonel Tom signed a five year contract to perform at the International Hotel in Las Vegas twice a year for four weeks at a time – for an eye-watering £1m (£7.5m today).

However, this came at a cost, as it meant that Elvis could not tour the world as the singer had hoped to do.

Colonel Tom also did not have a passport as he was not a US citizen – meaning he might not be able to re-enter America if he left with Elvis to travel the world.

It was also reported that Colonel Tom had huge gambling debts – something which was portrayed on the big screen in the recent Elvis biopic.

A source told Ultimate Classic Rock: "It was common knowledge that Parker was deeply into the 'people' in Vegas because of his enormous gambling losses," Elvis' personal hairstylist Larry Geller said in Alanna Nash's book The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley.

They added: "Elvis became more aware of this as time went by and knew that he was Colonel Parker's bait and ransom, that Parker owned him, and whatever losses Parker incurred, Elvis would ultimately pay off by performing."

Elvis remained in America to perform in venues across the country, including in Las Vegas, for the rest of his life.

However, during this time, the Colonel was instrumental in organising one of the first global satellite concerts of Elvis' performance in Hawaii.

This concert, and those in Las Vegas, would undoubtedly prove to be his final performances, as the King Of Rock 'n' Roll died aged 42 years old on August 16, 1977.

Court battle

Following Elvis' shock death in 1977, the Colonel continued to manage the singer's estate.

However, it is reported that after the singer's death, a probate judge appointed a Memphis lawyer called Blanchard Tual, whose report accused the Colonel of "self-dealing and overreaching” and of having "violated his duty to Elvis and the estate".

It is also reported that Colonel Tom Parker was later taken to court and removed as a beneficiary from future earnings relating to Elvis' work.

Over 20 years after Elvis' death on January 20, 1997, Colonel Tom Parker suffered a stroke, and died the following morning at a hospital in Las Vegas, Nevada, aged 87.

However, Elvis' ex-wife Priscilla attended the funeral and delivered the eulogy at the service, paying tribute to him saying: "Elvis and the Colonel made history together, and the world is richer, better, and far more interesting because of their collaboration."

She also joked: "And now I need to locate my wallet, because I noticed there was no ticket booth on the way in here, but I'm sure that the Colonel must have arranged for some toll on the way out."

Priscilla Presley defends The Colonel

Fans and critics went wild for Baz Luhrman's biopic of Elvis after it was released in June 2022 – including the star's own family.

However, actor Tom Hanks who played Colonel Tom in the film recalled how Priscilla explained the Colonel was not the "villain" that he is portrayed as.

Speaking on podcast Kermode and Mayo's Take, Tom Hanks said: "I was prepared to hear horror stories of, as I was familiar, of the Colonel, how he was manipulative, how he was a puppet master, how he was evil."

He added that over dinner, Priscilla defending the Colonel and revealed "The Colonel was one of the most delightful men I've ever met. He was caring!

"Can't really call him a crook, but was he fast and loose with some of the profits and some of the money? Yes. And when the time came, we got it all out from them.

"But in the day, he always said ‘yes’, he always had a sunny attitude and he brightened up every room that he walked into."

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