The Artist and the Businessman: Elvis Presley Meets Col. Tom ParkerPosted by Elvis Presley's Graceland on Feb 5, 2016 | 9 comments
Elvis Presley wasted no time winning over fans right from the beginning, thanks to his voice, energetic stage show, style, revolutionary sound and charm.
But the music business is just that – a business – and every artist needs a manager to help take care of the details. From mapping out a tour route to arguing for higher appearance fees, the manager takes care of the business side of things so the artist can focus on the music.
At the beginning of Elvis’ career, he met a man who would help him see his goals through to fruition. On February 6, 1955, Elvis met the man who would become his third and final manager: Col. Tom Parker.
On February 6, 1955, Elvis and his band performed two shows at Memphis’ Ellis Auditorium, a venue the guys knew well.
At both the 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. shows, Elvis and his band, Bill Black and Scotty Moor, shared the bill with country star Faron Young, “Beautiful Gospel Singer” Martha Carson, Ferlin Huskey “and many more,” as the poster promised. Elvis, still a young performer, is billed last, as “Memphis’ Own.” The poster included that he’d perform his regional hits “Heartbreaker” and “Milk Cow Boogie,” which he did, along with “That’s All Right” and “Good Rockin’ Tonight.”
A bit of history happened in between those shows.
Oscar Davis, an associate of Col. Tom Parker, had seen Elvis perform in October 1954, and met Elvis backstage through Elvis’ manager, Bob Neal. Neal knew Parker, who had many, many connections in the entertainment business, could take Elvis to the next level, and wanted the young singer and the promoter to meet.
Davis raved about Elvis to Parker and his fellow associate, Tom Diskin. Parker and Diskin checked out Elvis’ performance on the Louisiana Hayride on January 15, 1955, but didn’t meet Elvis and his band just yet. He did, however, reach out to Neal.
That fateful meeting took place on February 6, in between Elvis’ two sets. Neal, Parker, Diskin, Davis and Sun Records’ Sam Phillips met across the street from Ellis Auditorium at a café called Palumbo’s. Elvis and his bandmates sat in for a portion of this meeting.
The meeting wasn’t exactly a success. Parker explained he had the connections to take Elvis’ career to the next level, connections that a small label like Sun didn’t have. Naturally, Phillips didn’t like hearing this, especially after all of the work he’d poured into Elvis’ career.
Neal helped to ease tensions by discussing Elvis’ upcoming tour, and Davis said working with Parker could help get Phillips’ records into more stores.
The meeting, while not an enjoyable one, paved the way for eventual success. All of the men at the table wanted Elvis to succeed – and he did, more than any other entertainer in history. Elvis worked with both Neal and Parker until March 15, 1956, when Parker became his sole manager. Just shy of a year after that meeting on February 6, 1955, Elvis performed for the first time on national television (and as we know, Elvis had many other firsts in ’56 – like his first album, movie and more).
Interested in Elvis’ early career? You’re in luck. Many items, such as early hit records, stage wear and more, are on display at Elvis Presley’s Graceland. Plan your trip today.