Loanne Parker, a native of southern Ohio, first met Colonel Thomas Parker in l969 in Las Vegas. She was an employee of the International Hotel, where Elvis performed when he returned to the live concert scene. Later, when Elvis started to tour, the major tour sponsor was RCA Records and Loanne was hired as the RCA tour secretary, traveling with the shows until the time of Elvis’ death.
The. Colonel and Loanne were married in l990 after the death of the Colonel’s first wife, Marie. Loanne describes her marriage to the Colonel as a romantic one. They were also good friends and she respected his intelligence, his sincerity and his loyalty. She was involved in his business dealings for many years before and during their marriage and was the Colonel’s business confidant for over 25 years....from l970 on. In fact, Loanne’s initials appeared at the bottom of many of the Colonel’s letters.
As part of the tour group, Loanne attended many of Elvis’ concerts, and wishes that everyone could have seen Elvis live in concert. As she says, Elvis had a magnetism and aura that was indescribable. Above all, Loanne remembers Elvis as a human being who cared....his talent was “a plus.” Even without the talent, he would have cared, no matter what his occupation.
Loanne also describes the complex relationship between Elvis and the Colonel. Elvis usually looked after the creative end of things, and the Colonel covered the business details that Elvis didn’t want to be bothered with --and in the process, engineered many “firsts” for Elvis that no other artist had experienced. Contrary to popular belief, the Colonel did not commit Elvis to any contracts without his say so. The biggest misconception about the Colonel, Loanne feels, is the perception that he controlled Elvis and made him do things he didn’t want to do -- as Loanne says, Elvis and the Colonel discussed everything, had private meetings that absolutely no-one was privy to, and “no-one could tell Elvis Presley what to do.”
There were absolutely no restrictions on the questions that ETARadio was able to ask of Mrs. Parker, and in this interview Loanne and Joanna spend considerable time discussing the various myths and stories surrounding the Colonel. You can hear Loanne addressing and setting the record straight on a number of issues such as:
Reasons for Elvis not performing overseas
Elvis’ movie career and choice of movies
Rumours about the Colonel’s gambling and his ties to the Hilton hotel
Elvis’ drug use
Elvis’ heavy tour schedule
The Colonel’s seeming lack of emotion after Elvis’ death
Legal settlements between the Colonel, the State of Tennessee, and the Estate
Her answers are well-informed, sincere, and enlightening. For example, Loanne gives a poignant and heartfelt answer when discussing the issue of Elvis’ drug use. She also discusses beautifully and sadly how Elvis would not give up touring as he loved the fans and loved to entertain...how everyone around him understood the pressures he had but how very difficult and sad it was that no-one could do anything to help him.
Loanne also discusses the proceedings after Elvis’ death involving the State of Tennessee, the Colonel, and the Estate - initiated by the State of Tennessee and not by the Estate - and the ensuing settlement. She tells us how, at that time, Priscilla said to Col. Parker, “I wish you were my manager.” In fact, after Elvis death, the Col. was approached by other artists to manage them, but, although he’d always be willing to give advice, he never wanted to manage anyone else after Elvis. And he would never give advice to another artist without their own manager being present and in agreement.
Over the years, Loanne has kept in touch not only with Priscilla Presley and Jack Soden, of EPE, but with many of Elvis’ friends such as Joe Esposito, Jerry Schilling, Sonny West, Dick Grob, Charles Stone. They are her friends too.
When asked about impersonators and tribute artists, Loanne tells us that she likes the term “tribute artist” as she feels “imitators” take something away from the original artist. She speaks very highly of the tribute artists (such as Kraig Parker, whom she recently met) who make it possible for those who never saw Elvis live in concert to come close to seeing what it was like and wishes everyone could have seen Elvis in person. (Kraig, by the way, will be appearing at the Sun Coast Casino in Las Vegas from February 20-22).
Finally, when asked how she would like the world to remember Colonel Thomas Parker, Loanne’s heartfelt reply is that she would like him to be remembered as “a genius who, for his part, made changes in the entertainment world just as great as the changes Elvis made, for his part“ and says that their unique partnership will never be duplicated again. She is sad that the image of the Colonel is based on so much hearsay and erroneous information and feels that we’ve all been blessed by these two men who changed the world for the better.
You can hear Loanne’s complete answers to these questions and many more in this month’s live interview.
As ETARadio’s Joanna Johnson states at the end of the taped conversation, Loanne is a most dignified and loving spokesperson - and all of us at LadyLuck Music and ETARadio wish to thank Loanne Parker for her gracious participation in this heartfelt and meaningful rare interview.