The Colonel as "Special Adviser" to Elvis

On March 15, 1955 Bob Neal, who had officially been Elvis' manager since the first of the year, signed an amended one-year contract agreement giving him a 15 percent commission, though by then Parker had his sights locked on Elvis.  By the beginning of August in 1955 the Colonel was trying to get the Presley's to sign a new agreement with him and Hank Snow Attractions to advise Elvis and Bob.  According to Peter Guralnick, Vernon seemed pretty much ready to sign, but Gladys continued to balk. She was frightened by the riots in Florida, she said, she didn’t know why there was such a rush to do anything at this point, she was afraid of what might happen to her boy.1

Col. Tom A. Parker in Hawaii - ca. 1962
Photo source ElvisPresleyPedia

In Little Rock on the 2nd the Colonel enlisted his friend and neighbor Whitey Ford, "The Duke of Paducah," a favorite of Gladys', and Jimmie Rodgers Snow to speak on his behalf. He even had Hank Snow phone her trying to convince them that Bob Neal was not knowledgeable enough to successfully handle Elvis' career. As Elvis grew frustrated she finally caved and on August 15, 1955, they signed.1

reconstructed copy of the Colonel's "special adviser" contract with Elvis - Aug. 15, 1955
Photo courtesy The Elvis Forum

The contract named "Col. Thomas A. Parker" as “special adviser to Elvis Presley ['artist’] and Bob Neal ['manager’] for the period of one year and two one-year options for the sum of two thousand, five hundred dollars per year, payable in five payments of five hundred dollars each, to negotiate and assist in any way possible the build-up of Elvis Presley as an artist. Col. Parker will be reimbursed for any out-of-pocket expenses for traveling, promotion, advertising as approved by Elvis Presley and his manager." 1

reconstructed copy of the last page of "special adviser" contract with Elvis - Aug. 15, 1955
Photo courtesy The Elvis Forum

The Colonel retained exclusive rights to one hundred appearances over the course of the next year, for which the artist would be paid $200 each, "including his musicians." In addition, in the event that “negotiations come to a complete standstill and Elvis Presley and his manager and associates decide to freelance," the Colonel would be reimbursed for his expenses and, "at the special rate of one hundred seventy five dollars per day for the first appearance and two hundred fifty dollars for the second appearance and three hundred fifty dollars [for the third]," the Colonel retained exclusive territorial rights to "San Antonio, El Paso, Phoenix, 'Tucson, Albuquerque, Oklahoma City, Denver, Wichita Falls, Wichita, New Orleans, Mobile, Jacksonville, Pensacola, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Charleston, Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville, Knoxville, Roanoke, Richmond, Norfolk, Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, Newark, New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Omaha, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, St. Paul, Des Moines, Los Angeles, Amarillo, Houston, Galveston, Corpus Christi, Las Vegas, Reno, Cleveland, Dayton, Akron, and Columbus. 1

The Colonel, Elvis, Bob Neal and Hank Snow at the Hotel Peabody in Memphis - Nov. 21, 1955
Photo © EPE, Inc.

"Colonel Parker," the agreement concluded, “is to negotiate all renewals on existing contracts." Essentially it gave the Colonel control of virtually every aspect of the operation but Bob Neal would, however, officially stay on as manager until March the following year. 1

 The contract signing the Colonel as advisor to Elvis with RCA from November 21, 1955 - Sep. 29, 2011
Photo © James V. Roy, courtesy Larry Moss

Only months later, at the time of sale of Elvis' recording contract to RCA, they signed another contract which gave the Colonel only entitlement to essentially 25 percent.  Parker and Neal agreed to split their combined 40 percent commission on Elvis's earnings.  Hank Snow, who thought he was to be a partner in Elvis' management in this, would soon see himself excluded. It read as follows:

November 21, 1955

Col. Thomas A. Parker
Box 417
Madison, Tennessee

Dear Sir:

In consideration of the sum of One Dollar and other good and valuable consideration, each of us to the other in hand paid, receipt of which is hereby acknowledged, it is hereby agreed as follows:

1. This agreement is made between us in consideration of the the fact that you have, at our request previously made by us, greatly benefited and advanced the career of ELVIS PRESLEY in the field of public entertainment, by arranging the various agreements under which ELVIS PRESLEY has terminated his recording agreement with SUN records, and under which he has secured a new recording agreement with RADIO CORPORATION OF AMERICA, RCA VICTOR DIVISION upon much more favorable terms and payments for ELVIS PRESLEY, and by securing a favorable musical composition publication agreement with HILL AND RANGE SONGS, INC.

2. The undersigned hereby engage your services to act as the sole and exclusive Advisor and Personal Representative of ELVIS PRESLEY in the following departments of the field of public entertainment, for a period which shall coincide with the term of the aforementioned recording agreement with RADIO CORPORATION OF AMERICA, RCA VICTOR DIVISION, and all renewals, extensions, modifications and replacements thereof (which term presently is for three years with two additional option periods of one year each):

(a) phonograph, transcription and other mechanical recordings, (b) motion pictures, (c) television appearances and television films, (d) radio, (e) night clubs, (f) hotels, (g) fairs. (h) rodeos, (i) celebrations, (j) theatrical appearances; other than one night appearances in media other than those referred to above; with the understanding however, that you reserve exclusively one night appearances in those cities only in which you have pioneered the appearances of ELVIS PRESLEY, and music publishing activities.

3. The undersigned hereby agree that in the fields covered by your services, as listed in paragraph 2 of this agreement, they will be guided only by your advice and instructions, and that they will not enter into any agreements or commitments for the services of ELVIS PRESLEY, during the term of this agreement with you, without your approval, and unless such agreements or commitments are signed or countersigned by you; and the undersigned hereby grant to you the exclusive and irrevocable right and authority to make all such agreements and commitments upon terms and conditions which you consider advisable, and to sign the same in your name or in the name of ELVIS PRESLEY.

4. You hereby agree to use your best efforts in advising, counseling and representing ELVIS PRESLEY in the fields referred to in this agreement, and in endeavoring to make the career of ELVIS PRESLEY a successful one; and you agree to so advise and counsel him in connection with offers of engagements received by him, in connection with the material to be used by him in his recordings and in personal and other appearances, in connection with eliciting publicity, in routing and in connection with other matters pertaining to his career in said fields of public entertainment.

5. In consideration of the services which have already been rendered by you (as referred to in paragraph 1 of this agreement) and in consideration of the services to be rendered by you, the undersigned hereby agree that you shall be entitled to a commission of twenty-five (25%) percent of the gross income received by ELVIS PRESLEY in the fields of public entertainment covered by this agreement with you (but in computing "gross income" there shall be deducted only such booking fees which may be actually paid to any booking agencies for any engagements before computing your commissions), including income received directly for services or by way of so-called "artist royalties" or from any other sources. You shall be entitled to such commissions on the aforementioned agreement with RADIO CORPORATION OF AMERICA, RCA VICTOR DIVISION, and on any and all other agreements now existing and hereafter entered into during the term of this agreement for and during the full terms of such agreements and all renewals and extensions, modifications and replacements thereof, Whenever any payments for the services of ELVIS PRESLEY are received by you, you may deduct your commissions before paying over the share of ELVIS PRESLEY; and when payments for such services are made directly to the undersigned, or any of them, the commissions to which you are entitled shall be paid to you, in such case, within five days after receipt of each such payment.

6. Whenever you shall incur expenses for travel, telephones and other expenses incurred by you, you shall assume and pay your own such expenses. However, if at any time, any of the undersigned request that you travel to or with them to some particular place, then the undersigned shall assume and pay the expenses involved.

7. The undersigned admit that the services of ELVIS PRESLEY are unique and extraordinary; and that in the event of any breach of this agreement by the undersigned, or any of them, you shall be entitled to an injunction to enforce your rights, in addition to any other remedy available to you.

8. In the event that ELVIS PRESLEY, in breach of this agreement, appears or performs in any of the fields covered by this agreement, without your consent or approval, you shall nevertheless be entitled to your commissions on such agreements, in addition to any other remedies available to you.

9. The undersigned understands that you have other interests, and that you represent other interests and artists, and you are not required to render your services exclusively to ELVIS PRESLEY.

It was signed by Elvis and his parents and signed "agreed" by the Colonel and Bob Neal. By March of 1956, Bob Neal had decided not to renew his option as Elvis' manager. He returned to Memphis to operate his new record store though would soon return to artist management and make a career later of it.  At that time the Colonel and Elvis signed a new contract.

March 26, 1956 management contract
courtesy web

On March 26 the Colonel's new status as "sole and exclusive Advisor, Personal Representative, and Manager in any and all fields of public and private entertainment" was formally ratified and his 25 percent commission reaffirmed at the same time.1 By this time Elvis was 21 years old and the signature of his parents was no longer required.

The Colonel and Elvis in Madison, TN - ca. 1957
Photo © EPE, Inc.

In later years the Colonel would eventually expand his role to virtual "partner" and renegotiate increase his commissions to at least 50 percent, but that's beyond the scope of this site.

page added July 18, 2013

1 according to or excerpt from Last Train To Memphis by Peter Guralnick
Special nods to Did Elvis Sing in Your Home Town?  by Lee Cotten


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