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Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (1994)

by Peter Guralnick

Series: Guralnick's Elvis Presley (Volume 1)

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8771017,078 (4.25)15
From the moment that he first shook up the world in the mid 1950s, Elvis Presley has been one of the most vivid and enduring myths of American culture. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley is the first biography to go past that myth and present an Elvis beyond the legend. Based on hundreds of interviews and nearly a decade of research, it traces the evolution not just of the man but of the music and of the culture he left utterly transformed, creating a completely fresh portrait of Elvis and his world. This volume tracks the first twenty-four years of Elvis' life, covering his childhood, the stunning first recordings at Sun Records ("That's All Right," "Mystery Train"), and the early RCA hits ("Heartbreak Hotel," "Hound Dog," "Don't Be Cruel"). These were the years of his improbable self-invention and unprecedented triumphs, when it seemed that everything that Elvis tried succeeded wildly. There was scarcely a cloud in sight through this period until, in 1958, he was drafted into the army and his mother died shortly thereafter. The book closes on that somber and poignant note. Last Train to Memphis takes us deep inside Elvis' life, exploring his lifelong passion for music of every sort (from blues and gospel to Bing Crosby and Mario Lanza), his compelling affection for his family, and his intimate relationships with girlfriends, mentors, band members, professional associates, and friends. It shows us the loneliness, the trustfulness, the voracious appetite for experience, and above all the unshakable, almost mystical faith that Elvis had in himself and his music. Drawing frequently on Elvis' own words and on the recollections of those closest to him, the book offers an emotional, complex portrait of young Elvis Presley with a depth and dimension that for the first time allow his extraordinary accomplishments to ring true. Peter Guralnick has given us a previously unseen world, a rich panoply of people and events that illuminate an achievement, a place, and a time as never revealed before. Written with grace, humor, and affection, Last Train to Memphis has been hailed as the definitive biography of Elvis Presley. It is the first to set aside the myths and focus on Elvis' humanity in a way that has yet to be duplicated.… (more)



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Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
A very detailed biography told as if close to each of the events. A good book ... but I'm not sure why it is listed as a 100 New Classics. ( )
  deldevries | Aug 17, 2017 |
Peter Guralnick certainly did his research for this book! He details the first half of Elvis's life, from early childhood growing up in Tupelo, Mississippi to his mother's death and his deployment to Germany during his stint in the army. Guralnick offers a fairly complete portrait of Elvis Presley as a polite, eager-to-please Southern kid with a penchant for loud clothes, nice cars, and pretty girls. Elvis's rise to fame happened pretty quickly (or, at least faster than I had originally thought), and the descriptions of the pandemonium that followed him wherever he went were wild. The only downside to this book is, ironically, the extreme attention to detail - at times I got confused trying to keep all the people straight. I look forward to reading the second volume of this biography, detailing "the fall of Elvis Presley". ( )
  kaylaraeintheway | Jan 14, 2017 |
Elvis Presley is so over-rated ( )
  clarkland | Jan 19, 2015 |
When Guralnick calls Elvis a "myth" is he referring to the unfolding of events that created rock and roll, or is he implying Elvis had an unverifiable existence? Was Elvis a false notion? I'm not really sure. What I am sure about is Guralnick's ability to tease apart the smaller pieces of Elvis Aron Presley's early life; the moments that led up to his stardom. There is certainly enough emphasis on Elvis's shy and polite and humble beginnings as a sheltered country & western wannabe who couldn't play the guitar worth beans. There is also emphasis on the key people surrounding Elvis during his rise to fame. It is obvious as Elvis' stardom rose, the less he was able to discern who was trustworthy. He needed an entourage and he struggled with identity, but a growing confidence led him to expect adoration and special treatment, especially when it came to cars and women. I appreciated the historical context of the songs Elvis made famous, especially since someone else wrote them and almost always sang them first. Everyone knows Elvis made 'Blue Suede Shoes' famous, but few recognize the true origins of the song. I also appreciated the emphasis placed on Elvis' connection to family. Elvis may have had a taste of reality when he had to enter the military, but he had to swallow it whole when his mother died. The event changed his life. This is where Last Train to Memphis ends. The sequel, Careless Love picks up the biography.
Last Train to Memphis includes photographs (as it should), but that's not the cool part. The cool part is that the photos are not clumped together in the middle of the book like most biographies, but rather they begin each chapter like a little surprise. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Jan 28, 2014 |
The Moby Dick on Elvis - if you want to know what Elvis had for dinner on March 14, 1955, along with what color socks he was wearing, you'll find out in this book. An exhaustive investigation of the young man, soon to be King. I read this as part of my research into the American Road Novel (nonfiction book I'm writing) to see the impact traveling on the road had on Elvis, but not much was presented other than his love of Cadillacs and Lincoln Continentals. Nonetheless, this is a must-read for any Elvis fan. ( )
  NateJordon | Aug 28, 2009 |
Showing 1-5 of 8 (next | show all)
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For my mother and father and for Alexandra
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It is late May or early June, hot, steamy; a fetid breeze comes in off the river and wafts its way through the elegant lobby of the Hotel Peabody, where, it is said, the Mississippi Delta begins.
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