THE COLONEL by Alanna Nash


The Extraordinary Story of Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley
Email this review


Colonel Parker: con man, impresario, criminal—though perhaps best summed up by his military discharge report, “Psychosis, Psychogenic Depression, acute, on basis of Constitutional Psychopathic State, Emotional Instability.”

Journalist Nash (Golden Girl: The Story of Jessica Savitch, not reviewed, etc.), who makes heroic attempts at an even hand—“the Colonel was all the things he appeared to be, both good and bad”—nonetheless has a difficult time fleshing out the former. What he was good at was making sure he got a whopping share of his clients’ money. Otherwise, he was a mighty unsavory character, starting with the author’s conjecture that he was involved in a murder back in Holland, which caused him to flee to the US. He became the arch carnival man before transferring his overbearing sales talents to music promotion, representing Ernest Tubbs, Roy Acuff, Eddy Arnold, and Hank Snow, and then taking on Elvis as his cottage industry. Nash suggests Parker “single-handedly took the carnival tradition first to rock and roll, and then to modern mass entertainment . . . by merely applying the exploitational tactics of the barker to his own client, he drew a straight line from the bally platform . . . to the hullabalooed concert stage.” He was also a paranoid controller with a need to diminish and degrade, a man who mulcted his client with an absurd 50% commission rate (and no cut in the peripheral sales), and who drove Elvis mercilessly to perform, brushing off the performer's panic attacks and fears that led to his drug abuse, as well as his obvious physical and emotional decline. Yes, as a Parker crony said, “Nobody killed Elvis except Elvis,” but with friends like Parker, who needs an executioner?

A smoothly detailed study of one shady man—an exploiter and murder suspect who drove his meal ticket to the grave—and not even praiseworthy for his business acumen.

Pub Date: July 15th, 2003
ISBN: 0-7432-1301-7
Page count: 416pp
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15th, 2003


NonfictionALLEN KLEIN by Fred Goodman
by Fred Goodman