Colonel Tom joins Elvis in pantheon of rock 'n' roll

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The Independent Online
Colonel Tom Parker, a one-time carnival pitchman who shrewdly guided Elvis Presley's career for 22 years, died yesterday aged 87.

He became Presley's manager in 1955 just as the young Memphis truck driver was breaking on to the US scene as a rock 'n' roll sensation. Parker stayed in the position until "the king of rock 'n' roll" died in August 1977.

Parker was credited with getting Presley a $35,000 recording contract with RCA Victor in the mid-1950s when Sam Phillips of Sun Records in Memphis decided to sell the contract. He also arranged Presley's early television appearances, including three on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1956 and 1957 that helped catapult the young singer to stardom.

He exercised firm control over Presley, who affectionately called Parker "admiral". The "colonel" was an honorary title bestowed on Parker in 1948 by Jimmie Davis, Governor of Louisiana.

Parker was a mysterious figure who preferred to stay out of the public eye. Even his birthplace was in dispute: he said it was West Virginia, but most reference books give it as the Netherlands.