Looking For The Colonel
We have many documentaries on his client, Elvis Presley, but finally released on DVD is the documentary on the manager, Colonel Tom Parker.
The design is simple, a picture of Elvis and The Colonel, a duo that made it big in show business, both contributing a talent. But the picture is well chosen, The Colonel seems to scare Elvis, if only he had run away.
This documentary started at the carnival where the Colonel entered ”show business” as a ”clown” and started his scams. The camera captures the search for Dries van Kuijck’s footsteps from Constant Meijers, bringing him from Breda (The Netherlands, speaking with The Colonel’s sister) to Alabama (where The Colonel ran a dog impound) to Memphis and Las Vegas. Speaking to eyewitnesses who were there along the way and focuses on the last remaining traces of the once carnival-artist Tom Parker.
In the US Eddy Arnold was still very positive about The Colonel, and an old concert on the background had the first link tot Elvis as Eddy used The Jordanaires to back him up. So Gordon Stoker knew The Colonel before he met Elvis. Hank Snow was less positive, saying that the name Colonel Parker was a curse word. He was still angry the Colonel ”stole” the talent Elvis he discovered while playing a few dates with him. Eddy Arnold summarized The Colonel: ”he had his back to his client, looking at the audiences and thinking of ways to get their money”. His standard comment according to Lamar Fike: ”you do your job, I do mine”. He must have a good nose for talent; he found and managed several artists who did very well, Gene Austin (on his retour), Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow.
Sam Philips tells he had known The Colonel, but not worked with him before the Elvis-deal, but again, a positive opinion on the Colonel as a promoter. Lamar Fike said The Colonel made the deal with RCA because he was already there with Eddy Arnold and Hank Snow. He described the man as a lucky manager more than a good manager. But the Frank Sinatra show was a great deal, Frank paying Elvis to promote Elvis. Joan Deary’s commends are to the point, the RCA label had the ”His Master’s Voice” label, but it was more the Colonel’s voice.
One big minor is that the presenter dates Elvis death at August 17. The documentary also goes into The Colonels deals after Elvis had passed away. Unfortunately the case following the investigation was settled, so he was never questioned and all the mysteries remained. Steve Binder isn’t featured in many documentaries, his view on the need for a comeback as felt by both Elvis and the Colonel are known and to the point. The mental change Elvis made during the filming of the special, only going to do the things he wanted to, did (unfortunately) come into effect.
All music and footage (fifties, comeback and CBS Special) is original, so is the soundtrack, Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, Elvis and even Bruce Springsteen.
Interesting documentary on the man who was so important for Elvis’ career. By now most of the ‘newly discovered’ facts from 1987 have been told in detail in newer books such by writers such as Dirk Vellenga and Alannah Nash.