Elvis and the Colonel: An Insider’s Look at the Most Legendary Partnership in Show Business

St. Martin’s. Nov. 2023. 400p. ISBN 9781250287496. $32. BIOG
Entertainment producer McDonald and film/sports/music journalist Terrill (Steve McQueen) remarkably refurbish the reputation of Colonel Tom Parker (born Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk, 1909–97), who helped propel Elvis Presley to fame. Using information gleaned from McDonald’s close personal relationships with Parker and Presley, the book offers new details about Parker’s early life: his upbringing in a small Dutch seaport, his migration to the U.S., his adoption by the Parker family in West Virginia, his three-year stint in the U.S. Army, his work for the Humane Society, and his years in circuses and carnivals. The authors outline Parker’s initial foray into the music business with crooner Gene Austin and country stars Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. The book chronicles Parker’s pivotal role with Presley’s RCA record deal and appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, his promotional genius during Elvis’s time in the army, Parker’s lucrative negotiations of 31 Presley movies, and his savvy dealings for the superstar’s later live performances. The authors contend that Parker pioneered promotional techniques but left artistic decisions to the good-hearted, spendthrift singer.
VERDICT This book successfully explodes the myth of Parker as a manipulative puppeteer by portraying him as a shrewd but fair, loyal, and hardworking marketing innovator.
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