Colonel Tom Parker first signed Elvis Presley as his artist in 1956. From that moment on, he became his manager and his sole responsibility. The two men were together throughout every step of the King of Rock and Roll’s exceptional career, but Parker was never happier than when Elvis made his triumphant comeback in 1969.
After Elvis was conscripted into the US Army in 1960, the star returned to civilian life and toned down his touring schedule from then on, becoming a recording artist in the meantime.
In 1968 he and Parker decided the King’s career needed a reboot. Before long, an Elvis NBC TV Special had been worked out which was due to air on TVs around the world.
During this one-off special, the star performed some of his biggest hits to live viewers in an event that was watched all over the world. It turned out to be the kick that Elvis needed for his career. Less than a year later, Elvis started working on his live performances once again.
In 1969 Elvis returned to the stage in Las Vegas at the International Hotel as a sort of trial period for the future of his career. And the results were tremendous, leaving the audience absolutely frothing with excitement, while Parker was overcome with emotion.
The International Hotel’s performance room had 2,000 people seated to watch the King’s highly anticipated return.
The room was full of critics, celebrities, people of note and superfans who had spent thousands to watch the star sing live for the first time in years.
Although the King was nervous, he came out and gave the performance of a lifetime.
Dressed in a karate outfit, Elvis played a collection of the hits, including Love Me Tender, Jailhouse Rock and Hound Dog to name just a few.
He also gave an incredible rendition of Blue Suede Shoes that reportedly left fans “frenzied” as they erupted into applause and screaming throughout his set.
Elvis’ wife at the time, Priscilla Presley, was backstage watching in awe at the jaw-dropping performance her husband was delivering.
Priscilla wrote in her memoir, Elvis and Me, that she was “astounded” by the incredible sights and sounds she saw.
Once the concert had come to an end, Colonel Tom Parker furiously bounded into the backstage greenroom looking for Elvis.
Priscilla recalled Colonel Parker bursting into the room on the brink of emotion at how perfectly Elvis had performed.
Priscilla wrote: “The most touching moment was when Colonel Parker arrived with tears in his eyes, wanting to know where ‘his boy’ was.”
She added: “Elvis came out of the dressing room and the two men embraced. I believe everyone felt their emotion in that moment.”
Colonel Tom Parker was likely moved to tears for two reasons. One, was that he loved seeing “his boy” do so well at his craft. But the other reason was purely financial.
After the show, the International Hotel’s representatives revealed they were “very pleased” with Elvis’ set and box office sales.
Priscilla recalled that the following day Elvis and Parker signed a five-year contract to appear twice a year – January and August – at the hotel.
There was an even more unexpected part of the deal, as well. The International Hotel agreed upon an enormous salary: $1 million. This was an unheard-of sum at the time and is the equivalent of $7.5 million today.
Elvis’ new deal was a much-needed boost to his career that sped him along for the following few years.