Colonel Thomas Andrew Parker, born Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk on June 26, 1909 and passing away on January 21, 1997, was a music industry mogul most remembered for his role as Elvis Presley’s manager.
Parker, who was born in the Netherlands, came to the United States without permission when he was 20 years old. He adopted a new identity and a new surname, claiming American birth. It took a long time before anyone found out he was born in the Netherlands and an immigrant. Originally from the carnival industry, Parker switched to music promotion in 1938, first working with Gene Austin, one of the first prominent crooners, and later with Eddy Arnold, Hank Snow, and Tommy Sands, all of whom were considered pioneers of country music. Not only did he help Jimmie Davis get elected governor of Louisiana, but he also worked on his own campaign. Davis recognized his efforts by promoting him to the rank of “colonel” in the Louisiana State Militia.
In 1955, Parker met Presley, and by 1956, he was the only person Presley would let to act as his representative. Within a few short months, he had secured a recording contract with RCA Victor. Because to this deal, Presley was able to release his first record, “Heartbreak Hotel,” to the public in 1956, and quickly become one of the most well-known and financially successful musicians in history. More over half of the company’s profits went to Parker, an extraordinary amount for a music manager. He worked to get lucrative contracts for Presley in the areas of merchandise sales, television appearances, and film parts.
He had a significant impact on Presley’s private life, including the singer’s choice to enlist in the military in 1958 and his marriage to Priscilla Beaulieu in 1967. Throughout his commercial decline in the 1960s and until his recovery and return to touring in 1968, Parker encouraged Presley to produce cinematic musicals. Parker stayed in his management job until Presley’s death in 1977, although rarely seeing him after that.
Parker oversaw the Presley estate for the remainder of his life, but after selling RCA Records the rights to Presley’s early recordings, he found it difficult to make ends meet and also lost a lot of money gambling. A judge in 1980 ordered an investigation into Parker’s managerial style and concluded that it was unethical. Prior to his death in 1997, Parker spent his final years in Las Vegas, where his health deteriorated.
Parker, whose birth name was Andreas Cornelis van Kuijk, was the seventh of eleven children born to his parents on June 26, 1909, in Breda, Netherlands.
The offspring of Maria Elizabeth “Ponsie” and Adam van Kuijk, he was born into a family of Dutch settlers. When he was younger, he got his start in the entertainment world by working as a carnival barker in his hometown.
Van Kuijk relocated to Rotterdam when he was fifteen, eventually finding work on ships there.
First showing signs of desire to emigrate to the United States to “earn his fortune” at age 17, .One year later, he jumped ship from his employer’s vessel and entered America illegally, with enough money to last him for a while.
Before returning to the Netherlands for a while, he visited the United States for the first time as part of an educational tent show called Chautauqua.
According to Alanna Nash’s biography The Colonel, Parker was a possible suspect or person of interest in a murder that took place in Breda. Anna van den Enden, a bride of 23, was found dead in her apartment behind a greengrocer’s shop in the spring of 1929. The place had been pillaged for cash. Almost no evidence was discovered, and there were no eyewitnesses to the murder, but the perpetrator had sprinkled pepper on and around the body before fleeing the scene in the hopes that police dogs wouldn’t pick up on his scent.
This murder has remained unsolved for decades. Parker had been employed to make deliveries from this and other grocery stores in the vicinity, including the one where the murder took place, which was only a few streets away from where the Van Kuijk family lived. It’s possible that Parker didn’t apply for a passport because he was trying to avoid being arrested for a crime in the Netherlands, a country with which the United States maintains an active extradition treaty.
At the age of 19, Van Kuijk returned to the United States from the Netherlands in May 1929 and immediately found work with carnivals.
A few months later, he enlisted in the U.S. Army under the assumed name “Tom Parker,” which was the same as the name of the commander who questioned him. He graduated from boot camp at Fort McPherson near Atlanta.
He initially enlisted with the 64th Coast Artillery (United States) and spent two years stationed at Fort Shafter in Hawaii before reenlisting at Fort Barrancas in Florida.
Parker was accused with desertion despite his prior record of honourable service. He was sent to solitary confinement as punishment, and when he was released he was suffering from psychosis and had to spend two months in a psychiatric hospital; consequently, the Army released him from service.
Parker held a variety of occupations after his discharge, including those at food stands and carnivals with games. Roughly between the years 1931 and 1938, he performed as a “carny” for Royal American Shows. He started making connections that would serve him well later on.
With Marie Francis Mott, 27, by his side, Parker tied the knot in 1935. They worked short cons and moved throughout the country in search of work as they fought to make ends meet during the Great Depression. Parker would later say that there were periods when they were surviving on less than a dollar a week (around $20 in 2021 values). He also drank a lot of Pepsi.
Colonel Tom Parker Marriage Life
While on the road with the circus in 1935, Parker met and wed Marie Francis Mott, then 27. Marie had a son from her first marriage, had six siblings, and had been married twice before. Parker didn’t realize at the time that she had a second son from her first marriage, but she had, and that she had given him up for adoption since he was disabled (a club foot).
Some have hypothesized that Parker wed Marie to hide the fact that he was living in the country illegally; marrying a U.S. citizen already in possession of a U.S. citizen and kid would allow him to put his past behind him while starting a new life with his new family. There is, however, no hard evidence to suggest that motives other than romanticism played any part in their union.
However, there are many who question whether or not they were actually married. There is no record of a marriage between Parker and Marie in the Tampa, Florida, office of vital statistics between the years 1927 and 1946, despite Parker’s claims to the Associated Press many years later that he and Marie were married there in the winter of 1932. Bitsy, Marie’s brother, does not recall a formal wedding for her and Parker, and marital records do not show that she divorced her second husband until 1936. A “carny wedding,” as author Alanna Nash calls it, could have been as simple as the pair laying hands on a Bible.
Marie and Parker met while working in carnivals, and their early marriage included both of them working in the industry. Marie became more of a homemaker as Parker’s management career took off, although she occasionally accompanied him on business trips across the country. Marie developed dementia in her sixties due to years of poor health. As Parker watched the lady he loved slowly lose her mind, he began to pull away from her (cheat on her).Marie passed away at the age of 78 on November 25, 1986, from complications related to chronic brain disease. They tied the knot in October of 1990, and Miller had been working for Parker as his secretary since 1972. After that, he stayed in Las Vegas and rarely spoke to the media.
Colonel Tom Parker Net Worth
At the time of his death in 1997, Colonel Tom Parker, a Dutch-American talent manager and musical entrepreneur, was worth $1 million. Colonel Tom Parker is widely recognized as Elvis Presley’s manager. He was instrumental in Presley’s ascent to fame in the ’50s, and his decisions to join the military and wed Priscilla were heavily influenced by him. In the early 1980s, a judge determined that Parker’s handling of Elvis Presley was unethical after an investigation found evidence of wrongdoing.