'Dear Colonel Tom, thanks and I love you like a father,' from Elvis Presley
Possibly the most important piece of paper ever signed by the King will auction next month
For fans of the King, Heritage's Ultimate Elvis Auction on August 14 must be like something akin to the Second Coming. Featured lots include one of Presley's most treasured possessions, the White Knabe grand piano and bench from his Graceland home, which you can read more about here.
While the piano is symbolic of Elvis's growth from a poor Memphis boy living in public housing to international superstar, also appearing in Heritage's sale is the piece of paper which decided that fate: the legendary contract signed by the King with RCA Records in 1955.
Also autographed by Elvis's father and his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, the four-page, single-sided document is dated as being typed on November 15, 1955 and bears a Radio Corporation of America Record Department letterhead.
It was this very contract which cemented the transformation of Elvis, then aged 20, from a popular Southern act recording for the regional Sun Records label (in whose offices it was signed) into an international recording artist backed by the powerful and prestigious RCA label.
This change, of course, was not immediate. Two days after inking the deal, Elvis and his group performed at a high school in Port Arthur Texas, for a total fee of $350 between them. This contract, in comparison, was worth $5,000 - of which Colonel Tom duly took his 25%.
According to lore, Elvis went shopping in Memphis on November 23 and promptly spent $600 of his cut at Ed's Camera shop. Prior to that, the day after the contract was signed, Elvis's good manners and famed appreciation were evident in a letter written by him to Parker.
"Dear Colonel, Words can never tell you how my folks and I appreciate what you did for me. I've always known and now my folks are assured that you are the best, most wonderful person I could ever hope to work with. Believe me when I say I will stick with you through thick and thin and do everything I can to uphold your faith in me. Again, I say thanks and I love you like a father" - Elvis Presley in his letter to Colonel Tom Parker
By this point, Parker had only been Elvis's de facto manager for a month. Yet years later, Presley said of Parker: "I don't think I would have been very big with another man. Because he's a very smart man" (as quoted from Peter Guralnick's 1995 book, Last Train to Memphis: Rise of Elvis Presley).
Elvis's iconic gold-rimmed glasses carry an estimate of $20,000 and up
Meanwhile, other highlights in Heritage's sale will include Elvis Presley's and his parents' signed Graceland purchase agreement - not the first time his Graceland paperwork has auctioned recently - a 1976 Triumph TR-6 Convertible gifted to his lover Ginger Alden, and his iconic and instantly-recognisable Custom Gold-Framed Sunglasses.
But if you can't wait for the sale next month, there are currently a number of rare and sought-after signatures by the King on the market - on which more information can be found here.
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Images: Heritage Auction Galleries