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Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Tom Parker, has faced criticism for the control he exercised over the singer. According to members of Elvis’ entourage, he also exercised control over them. They claimed Parker was able to put them in a state of hypnosis and used it to control their behavior. 

Elvis’ manager used hypnosis on the singer’s entourage

Parker had the ability to hypnotize people, a skill he used frequently on members of Elvis’ entourage.

“He had a thing where he would hypnotize me and get me to do crazy things,” bodyguard Sonny West said in the book Elvis: What Happened? by Steve Dunleavy. “Now, I wasn’t in a trance and I knew what I was doing, but I did them just the same, some really nutty things that always had people in stitches. I would just do whatever he told me. I was hypnotized.”

A black and white picture of Colonel Tom Parker standing next to Elvis and wearing a cowboy hat. Elvis sits in front of multiple microphones.
Colonel Tom Parker and Elvis Presley | Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

According to Alanna Nash in the book The Colonel, Parker enjoyed hypnotizing his staff to “quack, bark, or dance like a trained bear” when guests dropped by. He also used it to control some members of Elvis’ entourage.

“He would make us all get down on all fours and tell us that we were dogs. And he would have us barking and yelping like dogs and snapping at each other,” West said. “The people who saw this performance were convinced all the Memphis boys were insane. Then on a command, he would tell us to attack one dog and that dog would be Lamar [Fike] and we would be all over him, biting and yelping. I know it sounds kind of nutty but it was lots of crazy fun.”

Sonny West interfered with the production of one of Elvis’ films while under hypnosis

West claimed Parker used hypnosis to get him to go after people for him. On the set of one movie, he got West to berate the director in front of everyone. 

“Now there was this director, Phil Karlson, who was very accomplished. He was directing Kid Galahad, and the Colonel just hypnotized me in front of the crew to go up and start abusing Karlson,” West said. “I was an extra on the movie and what do extras know about directing? Well, under the Colonel’s hypnosis, I knew a lot about directing. I went straight up to Mr. Karlson and started ranting and raving to him that this was the worst picture I had ever been associated with, that he was an incompetent director and the whole production was a disgrace.”

Karlson looked at Parker in shock, unable to believe that one of Elvis’ friends was talking to him that way. He didn’t find much sympathy in Parker, though. 

“Well, the crew, the Colonel and Elvis are dying laughing,” West said. “Then the Colonel snaps me out of the hypnosis and I go about my work as quiet and polite as could be. Mr. Karlson really thought he had a nutcase on his hands until he learned about the power of the Colonel’s hypnosis.”

Another bodyguard believed Elvis could also exercise control over people

While Elvis was not capable of hypnotizing people, his bodyguards believed he had a near-supernatural power over people. They had watched him control crowds like a dictator, and they knew they were willing to do anything for him.

A black and white picture of Elvis Presley holding a guitar and waving at his audience.
Elvis Presley | Bettmann/Contributor via Getty

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“He certainly had a power over us. He certainly had a control over me, I admit it,” bodyguard Red West said, adding, “We didn’t do it for the money, because we never got much. We didn’t do it for the women, because we had all had that and we are all married. We didn’t do it for the excitement, because we were all a bit old for that kind of thing.”

Elvis had such magnetism that he didn’t need hypnosis to control people.