COLONEL TOM PARKER: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley's Eccentric Manager

James L. Dickerson, Author COLONEL TOM PARKER: The Curious Life of Elvis Presley's $27.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-8154-1088-1

Elvis's manager gets a good skewering in this uneven biography by Dickerson (That's Alright, Elvis, with Scotty Moore), a veteran Nashville writer. The strength of the book lies in its early pages, when Dickerson traces Parker's sketchy background in the circus and his rise as a country music manager. The circus business gave him the ideas, Dickerson persuasively argues, that he later effectively used as a music promoter. But throughout the book, Dickerson's judgment is questionable. He argues that both Parker and Elvis were Jewish, but provides weak evidence on both accounts. And after the Dutch-born Parker—designated a colonel by a Kentucky governor—takes over Elvis's career in the mid-1950s, Dickerson exhibits little of the sympathy biographers usually feel for their subjects. Instead, he blames Parker for Elvis's ruin: "Rather than risk losing his interest in Elvis's contract to his creditors, Parker allowed Elvis to risk losing his career." Even if the colonel did push Elvis into some disastrous film roles to cover some of his own gambling debts, Parker deserves some credit for Presley's rise to demigod status, as Dickerson's own account shows ("Parker's decision to accept RCA's offer was the best thing that could have happened for Elvis' career.... ") There's little doubt that Parker was a shady character plagued by gambling problems, who tried to take advantage of Elvis. But readers hoping for a balanced account of the relationship will be disappointed. 35 pages b&w photos not seen by PW. (May)

Forecast:Elvis remains such a national obsession that any book promising a little-explored angle has some commercial potential. But this one won't register on most fans' radars, for true Elvis followers prefer not to have their king upstaged, especially by the man many think betrayed him.

Reviewed on: 03/26/2001
Release date: 05/01/2001
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 292 pages - 978-0-8154-1267-0
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