Elvis Presley: Was His Manager Tom Parker Actually a Colonel?

by John Jamison

Colonel Tom Parker was the man behind the man. He was the career-long manager of the one and only Elvis Presley. But was he actually a colonel? Was his name even Tom Parker?

No. Many details surrounding the life of Tom Parker aren’t necessarily as they seem. According to a 2001 article from the Washington Post, Parker was given an honorary title of “Colonel” by the governor of Lousiana, Jimmie Davis, in 1948. Parker reportedly said, “From now on, see to it that everyone addresses me as the Colonel,” right after the honor was bestowed upon him.

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with claiming an honorary title. Parker, however, reports on Parker claim that he was pretending to be someone he was not from the beginning. The Washington Post reports that Parker’s real name was likely Andreas Cornelius van Kuijk and that he was probably living in the United States as an illegal immigrant from the Netherlands.

As a result, Parker had to be clever and ruthless. The 2001 article claims that Parker came from a criminal background. He reportedly learned what he knew about entertainment from carnivals and took those lessons with him into the music industry as he managed artists like Elvis Presley.

Was Tom Parker Bad For Elvis Presley?

Beyond Tom Parker’s identity is the question of how he managed his prized client. Some claim that Parker was nothing more than a con man. One who gained the trust of important people and took them for all they were worth.

The 2001 article from the Washington Post reports that in the 1950s, Parker took advantage of country stars Hank Snow and Eddy Arnold. Eventually, he moved on to Elvis.

On the outside, it appeared obvious what the “Colonel” was doing. Parker seemed to be pushing Elvis into things that weren’t necessarily good for the artist or his music so that he could benefit from them financially.

Allegedly, Parker tried to keep Elvis Presley from touring internationally. Why? Because the manager wouldn’t be able to get back into the United States as an illegal immigrant.

Presley was never able to part ways with the manager, however. It could have been because Elvis disliked confrontation. Or maybe he actually felt that Parker was actually looking out for him.