'ELVIS & The Colonel'
Book by Darrin Lee Memmer
- Review by Piers Beagley
'ELVIS & The Colonel' is an A4 format, 200-page project.
The publicity notes, "Rest assured that this is no whitewash or rose-colored approach to biography; nah, just the most contemporaneously-rich, fair-minded & engaging collection of material about Colonel Parker to be assembled in one place.
So, for the 1st time in your life, you have an opportunity to soak up a tsunami of never-before-published quotes by notable figures including Mac Davis, bodyguard Sam Thompson, Billy Goldenberg, John Hartmann, Hal Blaine, "Bones" Howe, John Wilkinson, Grelun Landon, Yvonne "Batgirl" Craig, Steve Binder, Minnie Pearl, Sam Katzman, Ron Jacobs, Red West, Jerry Schilling, Joe Pasternak, Las Vegas Hilton VP Henri Lewin, Freddy Beinstock, Jerry Leiber, Marty Harrell, CMA President Jo Walker, Hubert Long, Johnny Rivers, Pete Johnson, Bill Bixby, and, of course, The Chief Potentate".
EIN's Piers Beagley checks out this new controversial book about Colonel Parker and Elvis...
|See reader feedback below - plus a note from EIN contributor Geoffrey McDonnell
There is no doubt that "ELVIS & The Colonel" is one of the strangest books I have ever read - although that could easily be expected from author Darrin Lee Memmer.
Darrin Lee truly enjoys challenging Elvis myths. His most famous publication so far is in fact 'Desert Storm; The Shattering of a Myth' about Elvis' emotional roller-coaster ride of mid-1974.
There is no doubt that in all his books Darrin Lee spends plenty of time investigating various alternate theories and interviews to try and disprove or challenge a normally held view in the Elvis world.
Of course, in any discussion one can cherry-pick facts and statistics to prove one's intended point. And it can often be fun to hear one's long-held beliefs challenged. I certainly enjoyed his 'Desert Storm' book even if I totally disagreed with his out-there theories.
Just because it is a FACT that Elvis said, "I am not strung out" does not prove that Elvis in reality was already drowning in a bad (prescription) drugs habit!
Elvis died nearly 40 years ago at a way too young age.
However Elvis' ASTOUNDING LEGACY is so accepted by one-and-all that it truly doesn't matter whether he was hooked on (prescription) drugs or not.
It's only sad that he died before "Betty Ford" clinics became well-known, acceptable treatments not to be ashamed of.
The question of Elvis’ consummation of drugs is of course mentioned multiple times in ‘Elvis & the Colonel’.
Darrin Lee Memmer already has several books published about Elvis and Colonel Parker (available on Amazon). Every book however is similar - each one appears to be a slightly expanded version of the previous volume - and the publicity for each book promises "Rest assured that this is no whitewash or rose-coloured approach to biography; rather, the most contemporaneously-rich, fair-minded & engaging collection of material about Colonel Parker to be assembled in one place."
The books are . . .
‘Colonel Tom A. Parker - Chief Potentate: Elvis's Manager... On The Record!' 150 page paperback from 2016.
‘The Colonel, Elvis and Dr. Nick - True, But Unknown: George Nichopoulos, M.D., Saves Pierre's Life'
and also 2016's "Colonel Tom A. Parker - The Chief Potentate Of Show Business"
Each promise "groundbreaking content from the Colonel's "For The Record" interview with 2 astute, take-no-prisoners criminal investigators (Mr. E.L. Hutchinson, Jr. and Mr. David N. McGriff) from the Shelby County District Attorney General's Office."
In March 2017 Darrin Lee Memmer published "ELVIS & The Colonel" - this time as an expanded 200 pages.
I have to note that this time he also added a book dedication to EIN honorary president and Aussie superfan Mr. Nigel Patterson.
Other suggested highlights were..
a) The "groundbreaking content from the Colonel's "For The Record" interview"
b) Uncovered! The "I do drugs" quote attributed to Elvis (via Colonel) - is erroneous. So, sadly for 25+ years, superfans like Mr. Geoffrey McDonnell have been led astray.
c) The most comprehensive presentation of the Guardian ad Litem's Amended Report (Blanchard E. Tual vs. Colonel Thomas A. Parker) & the March 1973 RCA "Masters Buy-Out" to appear in a biography.
Again the book promises to NOT be a white-wash yet the quotes featured on the book's promotional blurb and cover are so positive towards the wily old Colonel that one immediately becomes suspicious.
Quoting Marty Lacker stating, "I would say Colonel Parker's probably got to be the greatest promoter there ever was - as far as I am concerned."
And DJ Fontana stating , "In fact, I'd call him - to me, he is a genius. Because he doesn't miss a trick. He does everything right."
while omitting Marty Lacker’s "Parker never was concerned about Elvis' well being. Elvis should have gotten rid of him around '62.. I blame Parker's actions for a big part of Elvis relying on pills to escape his mental well being."
Or Scotty Moore's "Frankly, he was just a con man. I could see what he did with Bob Neal, he whittled away at getting rid of him".
... is obviously cherry-picking comments and IS a whitewash. Marty Lacker would be turning in his grave.
Similarly the book features a quote from Jerry Lieber, "Colonel Parker started handling Elvis right after he had this great success on Sun Records. I only met Parker a couple of times. He’s the brains behind it all, of course. A smart, southern businessman who knows what he wants and knows pretty well how he is going to get it. Anyway, a tough-minded guy."
EIN would have liked to have also seen this quote included from Jerry Lieber, "So I called Colonel Parker back and said, "Tom Diskin, I thought about what you told me." He said, "Good! What time are you gonna get here?" I said, "Tom, I spoke to Mike Stoller about the contract, and he told me to tell you to go fuck yourself. - I hung up, and I never spoke to him again."
... and the book says it isn’t going to be a white-wash!
The book starts with a compile of various comments and statements about Colonel Parker from Steve Binder, Billy Goldenberg etc. But it seems to be more about "The Comeback Special" rather than Colonel Parker and Elvis.
In fact the odd thing about the book is that there is not as much about "ELVIS & The Colonel" as you would expect. In fact Billy Goldenberg’s comments feature nothing about Parker at all.
In the first chapter Darrin Lee also notes about Peter Guralnick’s detailed ‘Careless Love’ biography as, "rubbish that overflows in biographies such as EPE’s bible — Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley." - This is obviously going to another controversial book!
The book starts, as it continues, with a compilation of are rather jumbled selection of interviews and quotes interspersed with some comments from the author. There is no real focus or time-line to the book’s structure although a lot of the quotes / interviews are interesting to read. However, of course, the vast majority are all too positive about the money-grabbing old manager.
Sixty pages then follow featuring Parker's 1980 "For The Record" interview made to E.L. Hutchinson and two other criminal investigators for the District Attorney General’s office looking into Dr. Nick’s medical malpractice. There is added discussion and more quotes between the major sections. This is the real core of the book.
In the interview Parker is obviously trying to dodge any blame for Elvis' drug-addiction and pretending that he knew nothing about it, while at the same time passing the blame to Dr Nick for Elvis’ drug-addiction.
The fascination is wondering about how Parker's statements can be SO inaccurate, while watching him also trying to dodge any tricky questions.
E.L., Jr.: When did you first meet Dr. George C. Nichopoulos?
COLONEL: I don’t know if I met him. I really don’t know what tour it was on or whether it was in Vegas, because he wasn’t always there. He may have been on tours, that I didn’t even know he was on it.
E.L., Jr.: All right, sir. But you started your tours in sixty-nine, right?
E.L., Jr.: But when do you, if you can recall, when was the first time that you heard of Dr. George Nichopoulos?
COLONEL: Well, I have heard of him. But, yeah, I can’t say what particular tour.
E.L., Jr.: No, but do you…?
COLONEL interrupts: I have heard of Dr. Nick. In Vegas, wasn’t he at the opening? ...
He was at one of them shows
Parker for instance states that Elvis was in the army "1959-1961" and that the Hawaii Arizona March 1961 fundraiser was "in ’71 or ’72".
There is no doubt that Parker is desperately trying to blame anyone but himself for Elvis’ drug addiction. In reality Elvis was hospitalised five times between 1973 and 1977 and in 1973 cancelled multiple concerts in Las Vegas and eight performances in Lake Tahoe but Parker pretends to remember only two cancelled concert incidents from years later. There is no doubt that Parker was well aware of what was happening to his client from much earlier on.
While it is an interesting interview to read (and which notably features in all of the Darrin Lee books noted above) – it is certainly not as described by the author "The Holy Grail primed to utterly stun the Elvis world" as so much of it is totally inconsequential.
Rather oddly the complete interview is then repeated later in the book over another twenty pages, this time without the added comments, which is totally unnecessary. The interviewer E.L. Hutchinson is oddly called "EL HUTCH" in the repeated interview as if he was an old buddy!
A later Chapter 10 "After Decades Of Foolish Talk By Memphis Mafia, Insiders And The Critics, A Star Is Born Finally Undergoes Proper Scrutiny" is again peculiar and quite a ridiculous examination.
It begins rightly noting that that "A Star Is Born is often hailed as a "golden opportunity" that eluded Elvis and the Colonel" but then after a rather personal, non-critical, examination into the character of Elvis’ role within the film - which as we all know was a failing rock star - the author decides on the verdict that it was "More like a project for him to have avoided like the Bubonic Plague".
This totally misses the point that whether Elvis should or could have done the movie, what Elvis needed was a challenge and that Parker had stiffled Elvis’ artistic creativity since putting him in those never-ending fluffy sixty travelogues. Jerry Schilling and Sonny West say the same, describing ‘A Star Is Born’ as the type of new challenge Elvis really needed, even if it wasn’t actually that particular movie. This was not "foolish talk".
The book also includes two chapters on ‘Singer Meets Elvis’ with interviews from Steve Binder and Bones Howe - as well as a chapter of 11 pages showing 'The Guardian ad Litem’s Amended Report (Blanchard E. Tual vs. Colonel Thomas A. Parker) + The RCA "Masters Buy-Out".
While the Bones Howe interview is an interesting read, Col Parker is only briefly mentioned at the start and then never again over the full nine pages. I find this very odd in a book supposedly about ‘Elvis and Colonel Parker’.
In chapter 12, the Steve Binder interview covers more familiar territory but is yet another interview about the "68 Special" that again hardly mentions Col Parker.
There are another two points in the book that I feel needed mentioning..
In one chapter the author makes a personal attack on EIN contributor Mr. Geoffrey McDonnell. He writes that "Geoffrey McDonnell sadly bought into Elvis confessing (non-existent) druggie ways to The Colonel" and this comment is repeated in each of Darrin Lee’s books.
However Geoffrey McDonnell in fact noted that Col. Parker reportedly said that Elvis confided in him, "I do Drugs." He did not state it was a fact, and after all who cares?
Most fans wish that Elvis had confessed that he had health issues (which obviously Parker DID know about yet tried to ignore) and had got some help.
And why on earth does the author have a go at my friend Geoffrey McDonnell for mentioning this in one on-line article?
Also regarding the "drugs issue" which Darrin Lee seems to have troubles coping with. Elvis took buckets of (prescription) drugs, during the sixties and worse in the seventies – but there is little reason to get angry about it or the reporting of it so many years later.
In the book Darrin Lee makes a specific comment "For fans that fall for The Memphis Mafia’s unsubstantiated claim "The Boss" was heavily into pills during the movie years, ask yourselves a question. Why have ZERO producers, co-stars, grips, extras, and so forth, stepped forward to collaborate it?"
The answer all too obviously in that amphetamines were not illegal in those days and were habitually used by many artists and workers in the movie and music industries - along with plenty of regular stressed middle-class families. With 5am starts in the movie industry "Dexies" were in regular supply to anyone who wanted them. It is a fact that in only three years 1966-1969 the US armed forces used over 225 million tablets of stimulants (mainly Dexedrine), and that amphetamines were only banned in the early seventies. There would therefore be no need for anyone to take note of it or comment about Elvis' use of them, especially as so many of them would be taking them too.
The book contains 24 photos, most are familiar, Elvis at the Overton Park Shell, Jailhouse Rock, Dr Nick, Bill Bixby etc - surprisingly there are no photos of Elvis with Col Parker except on the book cover.
The book ends with 20 pages of thorough notes & credits which along with the repeated Parker interview - plus the acknowledgements at the start - somewhat reduces the actual content from its supposed 200 pages.
Overall Verdict: I knew that this would be a challenging book to read and it certainly got me involved and feeling argumentative - which is not necessarilly a bad thing. As always Darrin Lee Memmer has put-together a controversial book going against the viewpoint of normal biographies. Although describing Peter Guralnick’s Elvis biography as "rubbish" doesn’t help his case.
Some of the quotes and interviews included from John Hartmann, Hal Blaine, Yvonne Craig, Ron Jacobs etc are indeed fun to read. The real trouble is that despite the promo blurb this truly is a "white-wash" of the nasty character of Elvis’ manager and contains way too much material that does not match the title of the book, "ELVIS & The Colonel".
If you really want to know about ‘Elvis and the Colonel’ you must read Alanna Nash’s marvellous 2004 book 'The Colonel: The Extraordinary Story of Col Tom Parker and Elvis Presley'.
However if you are interested in more interviews about ‘The Comeback Special’ plus plenty of (positive) quotes about Col Parker - along with some alternate viewpoints, then this book may be worth investigating.
Priced at $28 - CreateSpace Independent Publishers - published March, 2017.
Go to Amazon if you want to know more or to buy the book>>>
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN June 2017
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
EIN Footnote . . .
From artists Pablo Picasso via Vincent van Gogh and musicians such as Hank Williams, to David Bowie, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and Prince, great artists through the years have used and abused drugs - and it hasn't really mattered. Apart from the sadness of an early death and great creativity taken from us all too soon.
When investigating malpractice of Dr. Nick, the Tennessee Board of Health tabled evidence which showed that in the seven months preceding Elvis' death Dr. Nick wrote prescriptions for at least 8,805 pills and injectables including Dilaudid, Quaalude, Percodan, Demerol, and Cocaine Hydrochloride.
This does not reflect badly on Elvis, rather very poor management.
So while it can be true that Elvis was actually not "Strung Out" in August 1974 on any illegal drugs, he certainly did have a bad prescription drug habit that should have been handled better by both his Doctors, his family and most of all his manager.
Geoffrey McDonnell - "After Darrin Lee wrote to me trying to get me to see his argument that Elvis NEVER said 'I DO DRUGS' and the Colonels 'claim' Elvis came to see him soon after Vegas 74' summer season had ended in Palm Springs to say this, then i do agree that if he has gone to all the trouble of transcribing interviews + the possibility with Elvis long gone that the Colonel is quite capable of telling lies to protect himself.... then i accept that in 1991 me quoting a line from the 'Death of Elvis' book without any question and assuming it was TRUE is not particularly astute or even 100% believable.
However if Elvis had died aged 62 of a heart attack... then i would have believed he never took drugs, but the way Elvis looked 15 years older than his age by 1977 and the list of stuff Dr Nick was prescribing him and all those hospital visits and cancelled shows... commonsense would dictate that Elvis did have a severe 'problem' by 1974 and was the cause of his downfall.
So i enjoy Darrin's writing/research but don't agree with his conclusions."
Saying Peter Guralnicks Elvis book is bullshit is a very stupid thing to do if you want respect as an authority about Elvis.
I have enjoyed every book Guralnick has written perhaps his Sam Cooke bio is even better than his two Elvis books.
Piers are you right in saying Darrin Lee has a biased point of view and cherrypicks comments when your Colonel Parker article on EIN does the same but showing how bad you think Elvis's manager was.
Perhaps you should accept both viewpoints
EIN notes that our article is called "'The Dark Side Of Colonel Parker" - in NO WAY does it pretend that it is "Not a white-wash" which is what Darrin Lee states about his very biased book.
EIN's article starts off by stating honestly that ..
"It is a fact that after Elvis' death an official investigation found that "both Colonel Parker and RCA acted in collusion against Presley's best interests. Colonel Parker was guilty of self-dealing and overreaching and had violated his duty to both Elvis and to the estate."
We feel we are totally clear about our views in the article right from the start.
Great review - but now you have made me want to buy the book even if his ideas are crazy.
There is a lot of debate about Darrin Lee on Elvis messageboards, some fans think he is mad some think he does a good job showing alternate opinions.
As none of us were actually there who is right?
Everyone can have their opinion.
The fact that Marty Lacker did not like his opinions and honestly admitted to massive drug taking and health problems himself makes me think that you cannot ignore that Elvis had the same issues.
I have read his book on Desert Storm and he obviously puts a lot of time into transcribing Elvis's comments he made at various shows.
Some of it does make good reading although you cannot hear Elvis' medicated slurry words or his anger in the written word.
I was still happy to read that book, I have not got this one yet.
The review leaves me undecided.
Robert (on FECC)
I have a couple of his books and they are in fact insightful as you'll find many concert eye witness reports from fans, and people involved at the time, including band members, staff etc.
That's the cool part.
But we know he has an agenda and that's where things get tricky.
Reading the stories on Houston '76 for example is interesting as the book was written before the actual recording surfaced.
From pushing towards a consensus of Elvis just having a bad day or actually being sick (described by fans who obviously didn't have clue what was going on) to a few reports how great the show was that afternoon gives you an idea what to expect.
Then later the soundboard was released and I laughed at some of the book content as we know from Elvis inner circle he simply over medicated without Dr Nick being around, and he couldn't recover since it was an afternoon show.
But there are so many fans around who look at things positive no matter what, or even try to rewrite history so let's be cool with the guy.
Years ago, when the newsgroups still existed, on the one Elvis newsgroup I frequented because one could find people like Marty, Bill Burke, Larry Geller, and other Elvis associates, there was one troublemaker from Holland named Darrin. I suspect that the author of this book is the same Darrin who posted on that newsgroup. Darrin seemed to love Colonel Parker and defended him at every criticism that was leveled by others.
Marty and Bill were fan friendly, they would answer your questions about Elvis - with Marty, you had to be very respectful. Darrin was never friendly or respectful. He was confrontational on everything.
While most fans there agreed with Marty and his take on Parker, Darrin would be the first to rush in and defend Parker, asserting that he - Darrin - knew more about Parker and especially Elvis than Marty knew about Elvis.
Marty would, quite rightly, put Darrin in his place pointing out he was never an insider, either with Elvis or with Parker, so how could he defend a man he didn't know? Never mattered to Darrin. He would continue to defend Parker and was often nasty with Marty.
Marty did not put up with any of Darrin's BS and he finally blocked his posts from appearing. I enjoyed "chatting" with Marty, he and I would disagree here and there, but I disagreed with him only rarely and respectfully.
And for Darrin Lee Memmer, if he's the same Darrin, to use Marty's comments on Parker out of context would indeed cause Marty to spin in his grave. Marty had no use for Darrin.
EIN NOTE - Darrin Lee Memmer lives in the US, if the Darrin above really came from Holland then he could be a different person.
However the same spelling of the name and same opinions is very coincidental.
|'The Dark Side Of Colonel Parker' - EIN Spotlight: June 26th 2009 was a special date that commemorated four unique events of the Elvis World.
1. The 100th Birthday of Colonel Parker.
2. The 32nd Anniversary of Elvis' final concert in Indianapolis.
3. The 30th Anniversary of the death of Vernon Presley.
4. The 30th Anniversary of the revelation to Elvis’ estate that Colonel Parker was still fleecing his client.
Although comedian Nipsy Russell stated that "Every entertainer should go to bed at night and pray he finds a Colonel Tom Parker under his bed when he wakes up in the morning" - is that really the truth?
It is a fact that after Elvis' death an official investigation found that "both Colonel Parker (and RCA) acted in collusion against Presley's best interests. Colonel Parker was guilty of self-dealing and overreaching and had violated his duty to both Elvis and to the estate."
While there is no doubt that Elvis and The Colonel's story is extremely complex, in this in-depth Spotlight EIN takes a look at the darker side of Colonel Tom Parker - and includes plenty of insights from Elvis’ colleagues and friends.
. Go here for this fascinating investigation.
'Big Boss Man: What Kind of Technical Advice Did Parker Provide for Elvis’s Movies?': As technical advisor, Colonel Tom Parker was hailed by showbiz bible Variety as an "expert property developer." Though some of the movie properties Elvis’s manager helped develop were incredibly slapdash, that observation does raise one of the most puzzling aspects of the star’s Hollywood career.
How much control did Parker have over Presley’s films, and what kind of technical advice did he provide between 1956 and 1972?
The Colonel developed the strategy – and ensured it was executed. Though his client often complained that he was "tired of these damn movies" in which fought in one scene and sang to a dog in the next, he never decisively rebelled, signifying his distaste by hiding in Memphis for as long as possible until the next shooting schedule beckoned.
Click here to this EIN Spotlight where respected author Paul Simpson takes a fascinating look at Colonel Parker and his input, both positive and negative, into Elvis' film career...
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