Elvis Presley’s Manager Believed Gospel Music Could Cure His Addictions

UNITED STATES - JANUARY 01: (AUSTRALIA OUT) USA Photo of Colonel Tom PARKER and Elvis PRESLEY, with manager Colonel Tom Parker - posed, c.1956/1967
GAB Archive/Redferns

After seeing Baz Luhrmann‘s Elvis, Greg McDonald knew he had to set some records straight. He knew both Elvis Presley and his manager, the infamous Colonel Tom Parker. He said that the media paints Parker out to be the bad guy in the story but there is always more to learn. McDonald said that Parker loved Elvis like a son and they were very close. In the years before Elvis’ sudden death, Parker had been very worried about him and his addictions.

McDonald and co-writer Marshall Terrill open up about the relationship between Parker and Elvis in a book called Elvis and the Colonel: An Insider’s Look at the Most Legendary Partnership in Show Business. He shared, “Everybody depicts the Colonel as this bad guy, but if Elvis Presley was standing in the room right now, and somebody in the room said something bad about the Colonel, they’d get thrown out of the room. They loved each other, but they had a tough relationship toward the end because Elvis wasn’t doing well, and the Colonel was worried about him.”

LOS ANGELES - CIRCA 1963: Rock and roll singer and actor Elvis Presley confers with Colonel Tom Parker on the set of one of his films

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

By 1973, Parker realized that Elvis had a serious drug problem and was being enabled by Dr. George C. Nichopoulos, who prescribed him thousands of doses of prescription drugs over the years. McDonald recalled, “The Colonel and I were down in San Diego at one of the big buildings where Elvis was appearing. Billy Graham was there for several days. He had a 100-piece choir… There must have been 50,000 people… On our way home, the Colonel said, ‘The thing Elvis loves the most in his life is gospel music. And if he had a 100-piece choir like Billy Graham and only did gospel music… It might save his life.’”

KID GALAHAD, Elvis Presley, right, with manager 'Colonel' Tom Parker, on-set, 1962

Everett Collection

“The Colonel knew Elvis needed something more than Vegas and the regular rock ‘n’ roll tours,” he continued. “He knew that Elvis loved gospel music. He loved it better than anything… The Colonel knew Elvis was at risk. He felt that gospel music would save him.” Elvis was excited about the idea but ultimately it was too late. He died in 1977 from a heart attack likely caused by his addictions and poor diet. Purchase the book on Amazon.

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