Elvis Presley is receiving a new biopic later this month from director Baz Luhrmann – titled Elvis. The film shifts the focus to his manager, however, Colonel Tom Parker. Although the two had a strained relationship, they were extremely close to one another.
Elvis was first signed by Colonel Parker in 1956, and from that point on, Parker and the King were inseparable.
But not every moment of the star’s journey was happy. Parker, who died 25 years ago on January 21, 1997, was hugely affected by the King of Rock and Roll’s decision to stop touring.
After being conscripted into the US Army from 1958-1960, the star returned to civilian life and essentially retired from touring.
In 1968 he and Parker decided the star’s career needed a reboot. Before long, an Elvis NBC TV Special had been worked out. During this special, the star performed some of his biggest hits to live viewers in an event that was watched all over the world. And just one year later, Elvis started getting things moving in the live performance space once again.
In 1969 Elvis returned to the stage in Las Vegas at the opening of the International Hotel as a sort of trial period for the future of his career.
What happened next was almost magical.
The International Hotel’s performance room had 2,000 people in attendance at Elvis’ first comeback show. The room was full of critics, celebrities, people of note and superfans to watch the star’s highly-anticipated comeback in real-time.
Although he was nervous, the King came out and gave the performance of a lifetime. Dressed in a costumed karate outfit, he gave an incredible rendition of Blue Suede Shoes that reportedly left fans “frenzied” as they erupted into applause and screaming throughout his set.
Elvis’ wife at the time, Priscilla Presley, was backstage watching the star do what he was best at.
After the gig came to an end, Elvis returned backstage, where Colonel Parker came barrelled through the room looking for him.
Priscilla added: “Elvis came out of the dressing room and the two men embraced. I believe everyone felt their emotion in that moment.”
Even more exciting for the pair was that the International Hotel was very pleased with Elvis’ set and box office sales. The following day, Priscilla recalled, Elvis and Parker signed a five-year contract to appear twice a year – January and August – for weeks at a time.
But there was an even more unexpected part of the deal.
The International Hotel agreed upon an enormous salary: $1 million. This was an unheard-of sum at the time and is the equivalent of $7.5 million today.
Elvis’ new deal was a much-needed boost to his career that sped him along for the following few years.
However, this also stopped his plans to perform around the world – something he had wanted to do for years.
This was due to Colonel Parker’s lack of a passport. As an illegal immigrant, he was worried he would not be allowed to return to America if he left.
Instead, Colonel Parker kept him in Las Vegas for his final years of performing.