11 February, 2009
Colonel Tom Parker
"Colonel" Tom Parker was an entertainment impresario known best as the manager of Elvis Presley. For many years Parker claimed to have been U.S. born, but it eventually emerged that he was born in Breda, Netherlands, to Dutch parents. His management of Elvis Presley re-wrote the role of the manager and was seen as central to the astonishing success of Presley's career. He displayed a ruthless devotion to his client's interests and piloted Elvis to global superstardom.
Parker's involvement in the music industry began as a music promoter in the late 1940s, working with such country music stars as Minnie Pearl, Hank Snow, and Eddy Arnold. During this time he received the honorary title of "Colonel" in 1948 from Jimmie Davis, the governor of Louisiana, in return for work he did on Davis' election campaign.
Parker's real place of birth was in Breda, Netherlands. Still carrying his baptismal name, Andreas Cornelis (Dries) van Kuijk left his native land at about the age of 20 and joined the United States Army, despite the fact he was not a U.S. citizen. Van Kuijk was stationed in Hawaii, at a base commanded by a Captain Tom Parker. After leaving the service, van Kuijk adopted the name Tom Parker. He became part of the circus world some time later. He also worked as a dogcatcher and a pet cemetery proprietor in Temple Terrace, Florida, in the 1940s.
Parker died of a stroke on January 21, 1997, in Las Vegas, Nevada, at the age of 87.