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How Elvis Presley and Colonel Tom Parker Made Music History Together


By Greg McDonald and Marshall Terrill

Greg McDonald and Marshall Terrill on the Fraught Yet Successful Partnership of Two Industry Titans

In late February 1972, President Richard Nixon made a historic trip to China in an effort to ease long-term tensions and hostilities after years of diplomatic isolation. Not only did this visit strengthen Chinese-American relations, but it also served to encourage progress with the USSR.

I was driving Colonel Parker from Los Angeles to Palm Springs as we listened to a radio broadcast of this event, live via satellite from China. The Colonel’s mind went into overdrive as he learned about this new technology, which would allow people to hear and see someone around the world on radio and television. He blurted the first thing that came to his mind.

“What a great way for people everywhere to see and hear Elvis!” he said.

He knew a show by satellite could make entertainment history and Elvis was the perfect worldwide star to pull it off.

But how do you achieve something that has never been done before? I have been around lots of wealthy and influential people. Many of them come up with great ideas such as these, but 99.9 percent of them never get off the drawing board. If they do, there is a team of people doing the nuts and bolts to pull it off. Colonel Parker was a one-man show. He was among that .01 percent who worked tirelessly to realize his vision. This idea, he felt, could be very big… but it would need some more thought…

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