lives have garnered more interest or received more scrutiny than Elvis Presley's. Over 600,000 tourists visit Graceland each year, and the King continues to be one of RCA's top record sellers. Elvis' life and death also contain a great deal of mystery, and perhaps no part remains more mysterious than his relationship with Colonel Tom Parker. Parker managed Presley's career, handling publicity, cutting deals and receiving commissions of 25 and later 50 percent. Although many argued that his commissions were too high and that he often failed to serve Elvis' best interest, he remained his manager for 22 years. James L. Dickerson's Colonel Tom Parker is a journey toward understanding the man who wielded power over Elvis and everyone else who fell into his orbit. Dickerson explores Parker's mysterious origins and provides telling information about the early relationship between the Colonel and Elvis. Parker believed the singer's charisma and ambition would take him far, so he slowly worked to usurp the duties of Elvis' manager Bob Neal by ingratiating himself to Presley and his parents. Yet the Colonel's shady deals and hard-nosed tactics were evident to many from the very beginning.
A great deal of disagreement remains over whether Parker mismanaged Elvis' career, and many are critical of his failure to take a more proactive stance with Presley's drug use. Colonel Tom Parker doesn't try to defend the man from these charges. Instead, it explores his carnival background, addiction to gambling and fear of authority, providing information that clarifies why Parker behaved the way he did. Colonel Tom Parker is a brisk, enjoyable read, perfect for Elvis fans, serious or casual. Author of Goin' Back to Memphis and Dixie Chicks, among other titles, Dickerson pulls the reader into the drama of the story. His insider knowledge of the music industry allows him to present his material in a lucid fashion. While the questions surrounding the perplexing relationship between an ex-carnival barker and a country boy who hit the big time may never be completely answered, Colonel Tom Parker leaves the reader with a provocative story and fresh insights.
Ronnie D. Lankford, Jr., is a writer in Appomattox, Virginia.