On this day, 15th March 1955, Elvis Presley signed a management contract with Colonel Tom Parker. Parker had previously managed the ‘Great Parker Pony Circus’ with one of the acts being a troupe of dancing chickens.
Parker, changed his name as soon as he arrived in the US, having been born Andreas van Kuijk. Parker was an illegal alien, who had never applied for a green card and feared deportation his entire life. It is said that the reason Elvis never toured outside North America was because Parker couldn’t leave the county.
Who would want to be a manager!
This got me thinking. When you’re the manager of some multi-million pound selling act – with your gold discs hanging from the office wall and your collection of shiny cars just waiting to be driven to the gym, life must get boring.
This is why managers go mad and do the strangest of things. And maybe why strange things happen to them. I’ve taken the time below to illustrate this.
Let’s start with Soul singer Sam Cooke who was shot dead by his manager Bertha Franklin. She claimed to have been assaulted by Cooke while staying at the Hacienda Hotel in Los Angeles, so she shot him dead. Well, that’s one way of boosting sales, I suppose – kill your artist. Cooke was 33 years old.
Take That’s former manager Nigel Martin Smith started a new business – as an undertaker. It was reported that after a death in the family, he became unhappy with the undertakers he had used – so he decided to buy a local funeral firm in his home-town of Manchester.
New Edition’s production manager was charged with criminal homicide after allegedly shooting the support act’s security man after they ran over their allocated stage time.
Motley Crue and Bon Jovi’s manager Doc McGee was convicted on drug offences arising from the 1982 seizure of 40,000lb of marijuana smuggled into North Carolina from Colombia. McGee was sentenced to a five year suspended prison term and a $15,000 fine.
The Grateful Dead’s manager Lenny Hart was arrested after disappearing with over $150,000 of the band’s money – which was unfortunate, since he is the father of Dead drummer Mickey Hart. Mickey left the band as a result, between 1971 and 1975, though the incident did inspire a song ‘He’s Gone’.
Allen Klein, ex-manager of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, served a two-month prison sentence for falsifying tax returns.
61 year old Terry Knight, the former manager of Grand Funk Railroad, was murdered at his home in Temple, Texas in 2004. Knight was defending his daughter during a domestic disturbance, when he was stabbed by her boyfriend. (That was just bad luck).
Reg Calvert, manager of The Fortunes and Screaming Lord Sutch and the owner of offshore pirate radio station Radio City, was shot dead by business rival William Smedley (owner of pirate station Radio Caroline), during a confrontation. Smedley was later cleared of the murder charge.
When Bay City Rollers manager Tam Paton died in the bath at his Edinburgh home of a suspected heart attack, some people cheered. The 70-year-old, who had suffered two previous heart attacks and a stroke, had made millions through the success of the band in the 1970s, but was a far more controversial figure in recent years. He was convicted of sex offences against two boys aged 16 and 17 in 1982, and was convicted of drug dealing in 2004 after £26,000 worth of cannabis was found at his home.
In 1976 Bruce Springsteen sued his manager Mike Appel for alleged fraud and breach of trust. The case dragged on for over a year, temporarily halting Springsteen’s career, until an out of court settlement was reached.
And I can’t leave without mentioning the greatest rock manager who ever lived. Yes, Mr Peter Grant, without whom Led Zeppelin would’ve had only half the success they had.
As The Everly Bros’ Phil Everly commented: “without his efforts, bands had no careers. He was the first to make sure that the artists came first and that we got paid and paid properly.”
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