Elvis Presley’s Manager: Did Colonel Parker Steal From Elvis?

did colonel parker steal from elvis
Colonel Tom Parker in 1969. This image is in the public domain.

Ever since the release of the Elvis biopic starring Austin Butler as the King of Rock n’ Roll and Tom Hanks as Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, in 2022, generations of fans are starting to revisit the question of whether Colonel Parker played Elvis dirty or not.

Did Colonel Parker steal from Elvis? Find out below.

How Much Money Did Colonel Parker Take From Elvis?

Being managed by Colonel Tom Parker came at a hefty price for the “Love Me Tender” singer. No matter where it came from, be it from touring, record sales, his time at Sun Records, or merchandise, Colonel Parker took up to 50 percent of Elvis’ earnings throughout his career. Considering the average amount for managers is between 10 to 15 percent, we’d say it’s clear that the “Viva Las Vegas” singer was robbed.

Parker’s defense? Elvis was his only client, and it was well-earned. Considering his greedy ways, unfortunately, we can’t help but conclude that others were able to see through him.

Colonel Parker also used Elvis throughout their partnership, no matter what the cost meant for the beloved king. For example, during his time away from the stage when Elvis made his many Hollywood films, Parker ignored the extremely negative critical reviews of the “Blue Hawaii” actor. 

Related: 10 Best Elvis Movies: The King of the Big Screen

Since the sales at the box office continued to be successful, that meant the money was still coming in: the only thing that mattered to the colonel.

If that weren’t enough, he even turned the wedding of Elvis and Priscilla into a big to-do, finding the biggest ways to make money. 

Related: Priscilla Presley: Her Crazy Life as Wife to the King

Additionally, a big reason for Colonel Parker negotiating the deal for Elvis’ Las Vegas residency, which had him working like a “Hound Dog,” was to pay for his outstanding gambling debt.

elvis preslet and colonel parker
Elvis Presley and Colonel Parker in 1969. Image is in the publis domain.

Did Elvis Owe Colonel Parker?

When things started to get bad many wondered, why did Elvis stay with Colonel Parker?

It’s no secret that Colonel Parker was the clear villain portrayed during the biopic film; however, due to the indication that Elvis would eventually return under Parker’s management, questions have arisen whether the “Jailhouse Rock” singer really did owe his manager.

If the film is correct, when Elvis tried to part ways with Parker, the latter slammed him with a huge “bill” of what he owed for breaking his contract. Unable to pay the estimated $2 to $10 million sum, Presley reluctantly returned to Parker’s management.

Did Elvis Call Out Parker on Stage?

Despite what the film indicates, Elvis did not flat-out try to fire Colonel Parker from the Las Vegas residency stage at the International Hotel.

Did Colonel Parker Go To Elvis’ Funeral?

Colonel Tom Parker attended Elvis’ funeral, which took place at his Graceland home in Memphis, Tennessee, on Apr. 18, 1977.

All the way through to the end, Colonel Parker apparently wanted to seem like the good guy. Personally, we think he was mourning the potential dip in income more than the “Blue Suede Shoes” singer himself.

Reports have indicated that the colonel didn’t even display emotion during the event but instead tricked Vernon Presley, Elvis’ father, into signing over all control of Elvis’ career earnings to the disgraced manager.

What Did Colonel Parker Do After Elvis Died?

So much for allowing the legendary king to rest in peace. What did Colonel Tom Parker do after Elvis Died?

Even after Elvis’ untimely death, Colonel Parker was still bringing in money from Elvis’ estate. That is, until the early 1980s when Elvis Presley Enterprises eventually paid Colonel Parker $2 million for all of Elvis’ audio recordings, visual images and termination from any longer being involved with anything related to the late “Don’t Be Cruel” singer.

We think it was a small price to pay to finally get Elvis out from under Colonel Parker’s thumb once and for all.


What is the True Story of Colonel Parker? 

With all of these questions surrounding whether or not Colonel Parker stole from the “In the Ghetto” singer, some may be wondering just who this guy was. His story is quite a controversial one. 

Even before he met Elvis, Colonel Parker was a shady character. 

Originally from the Netherlands, it was not until after Presley’s death that it was revealed he wasn’t from West Virginia, as he claimed. In 1929, Colonel Parker, actually born Andreas Cornelis Dries van Kuijk, was a stowaway on a cruise liner to the United States. 

Somehow, he was able to enlist in the U.S. Army, even without papers, but was imprisoned for desertion for a brief period in 1932 after going AWOL. 

How Did Elvis Meet Colonel Parker? 

It was early in 1955 when Colonel Tom Parker became aware of 20-year-old Elvis Presley. Upon hearing Presley sing on the radio, he immediately became interested in his unique style. 

At the time, Bob Neal was serving as Elvis’ manager. He knew of Colonel Parker and wanted the pair to meet, knowing that Parker had several connections throughout the entertainment business and would be able to take Elvis to the next level of his career. 

Colonel Parker officially became part of Presley’s management team in February 1955, working alongside Neal to promote the young, up-and-coming singer. Parker didn’t waste time doing all he could to work his way in, more and more into the “Suspicious Minds” singer’s career, becoming his “special advisor” in the summer of 1955. 

Colonel Parker became Presley’s exclusive representative on Mar. 26, 1956, after the latter’s management contract with Neal officially expired. 

How Long Did Colonel Parker Live After Elvis Died?

Colonel Tom Parker went on to live for another 20 years after Elvis’ tragic death.

elvis movies
Portrait of Elvis Presley printed at the time he was leaving to join the army in 1958. Image by Unknown Author sourced from Wikimedia Commons.

What was Colonel Tom Parker Worth When He Died?

Because of his crazy commission from Elvis’ career the question of the Colonel Tom Parker net worth is one many have asked.

At the time of his death in 1997, Elvis’ Manager, Colonel Parker was worth approximately $1 million, the same as $1.8 million in 2023.

Considering he eventually no longer had access to any income from Elvis’ estate for years by then and his well-known history of accruing significant gambling debt, we’re not surprised to find out he was worth so little.

Who inherited Colonel Parker’s money? 

Ironically, because of all the legal issues surrounding it over the years, it has been rumored that his money went to Lisa Marie Presley as Elvis’ sole beneficiary. Since her recent death, that would mean her daughters Riley Keough and Harper and Finley Lockwood now have any of the money that was left along with Graceland. 

Related: How Did Lisa Marie Presley Die: The Life as Daughter to the King

How Old Was Colonel Tom Parker When He Died?

Colonel Parker was 87 years old at the time of his death. 

How Did Colonel Parker Die? 

Colonel Parker died from a stroke on Jan. 21, 1997

In the years leading up to his death, he suffered from multiple health problems, including diabetes and gout. 

priscilla presley
LOS ANGELES – MAY 7: Priscilla Presley, Riley Keough at the Humane Society Of The United States LA Gala at the Paramount Studios on May 7, 2016 in Los Angeles, CA. Image from Shutterstock.

What Did Priscilla Presley Say About Colonel Parker? 

Colonel Tom Parker’s funeral was held at the Hilton Hotel in Las Vegas. The Colonel Tom Parker grave is Palm Downtown Mortuary and Cemetery in Vegas.

It may surprise many to find out that Priscilla Presley attended Colonel Parker’s funeral. Representing the Elvis Presley Estate, she also gave a eulogy, and the positive comments she had came as a surprise to many.

She said: “Elvis and the Colonel made history together, and the world is richer, better, and far more interesting because of their collaboration. 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.” 

Tom Hanks Portrays the Infamous Colonel Tom Parker

In one of his few villainous roles, Tom Hanks took on the role of Elvis Presley’s manager for the 2022 biopic alongside rising star Austin Butler. 

Of playing the role, Hanks said, “I was anticipating hearing horror stories about this venal, cheap crook. Just the opposite. Priscilla … said he was a lovely man.” 

Priscilla Presley also supposedly said that Elvis was happy to pay the 50 percent, so did Colonel Parker steal from Elvis? Whether that was the agreement or not, we say yes, considering the underhanded schemes that came with it. 

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Written by Anna Paulson


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