By 1967, Colonel Tom Parker had negotiated a contract that gave him 50% of Presley's earnings. Much has been written about the suspect nature of Parker's business practices. His dubious origins and gambling addictions in particular—and the subsequent need to keep Presley 'commercial'—may well have adversely affected the course of Presley's career.t It has been claimed that Presley's original band was fired because Parker wanted to isolate the singer from anyone who might offer him a better management deal.
Marty Lacker, one of a coterie of Presley's trusted friends known as the "Memphis Mafia", regarded Colonel Parker as a "hustler and scam artist" who abused Presley's trust, but Lacker acknowledged that Parker was a master promoter. Priscilla Presley noted that "Elvis detested the business side of his career. He would sign a contract without even reading it." Interestingly, Presley personally didn't like several songs he had to sing. Jerry Schilling, another Memphis Mafia member, relates that one way to arouse the wrath of the singer was to play one of his own recordings at his parties. "Get that crap off," was his reaction on one occasion when someone played "All Shook Up" on a jukebox. "There was no doubt he was really angry." Schilling thinks that Presley "lived with his music outside of the house—he didn't need to hear it while he was trying to relax in his own basement."
Presley's father distrusted the members of the "Memphis Mafia"; he thought they collectively exercised an unhealthy influence over his son. "[I]t was no wonder" that as the singer "slid into addiction and torpor, no one raised the alarm: to them, Elvis was the bank, and it had to remain open." Musician Tony Brown noted the urgent need to reverse Presley's declining health as the singer toured in the mid-1970s. "But we all knew it was hopeless because Elvis was surrounded by that little circle of people... all those so-called friends and... bodyguards."
Larry Geller became Presley's hairdresser in 1964. Unlike Presley's generally down-to-earth buddies, Geller was interested in 'spiritual studies'. From their first conversation, Geller recalls how Presley revealed his secret thoughts and anxieties, how "there's got to be a reason... why I was chosen to be Elvis Presley.'" He then poured out his heart in "an almost painful rush of words and emotions," telling Geller about his mother and the hollowness of his Hollywood life, things he could not share with anyone around him. Thereafter, Presley voraciously read books Geller supplied, on religion and mysticism. Perhaps most tellingly, he revealed to Geller: "I swear to God, no one knows how lonely I get and how empty I really feel." Presley would be preoccupied by such matters for much of his life, taking trunkloads of books with him on tour.
In 1969, record producer Chips Moman of American Studios, Memphis, was particularly critical of the song choices and staff of Hill and Range, Presley's main music publisher. Moman could only get the best out of Presley when he got the "aggravating" publishing personnel out of the studio. RCA Victor executive Joan Deary was later full of praise for the superior results of Moman's work but despite this, no producer was to override Hill and Range's control again.