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Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley [Kindle Edition]

Peter Guralnick
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (115 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $18.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $8.01 (45%)
Sold by: Hachette Book Group

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

There's no mention of sequins, drugs, or peanut butter in this understated biography of the teenaged Elvis, a serious and worthy attempt to answer the question, "Who was this guy before he was an icon, the voice of a generation, the King?" The essential clarity and honesty of Guralnick's prose clearly limns the eager, malleable boy whose immense talent changed the course of American music.

From Publishers Weekly

Given the passion evident in most books about Elvis Presley (1935-1977), the scrupulously dispassionate tone of this new biography, the first of a projected two volumes, is admirable and startling. Guralnick (Lost Highway) lets the facts speak for themselves, more or less, by providing solid background and quoting at length from people who knew Elvis as well as the contemporary press. In retelling the familiar story of a poor Southern boy's meteoric rise to unprecedented fame, Guralnick eschews the conventional wisdom-Elvis was an instinctive artist whose career was trashed by his manager, Colonel Tom Parker, and by movie and record company executives-to present a more complex picture. He shows those associated with Elvis struggling to get a handle on a new music form, rock 'n' roll, that they barely understood. At times, one wishes the author were more open about his own opinions. But this welcome relief from the hysterical tone of most Elvis books closes somberly with the performer's induction into the Army and the death of his beloved mother in 1958. Photos. Author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 4756 KB
  • Print Length: 580 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1st edition (December 20, 2012)
  • Sold by: Hachette Book Group
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B005AL61B6
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #80,125 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
66 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some People Actually Think He's Dead... April 24, 2003
But it's not true...Elvis DOES the pages of Guralnick's outstanding biography of Elvis Presley, a biography that will stand the test of time as the definitive study of the King of Rock n Roll.
In Volume One, Guralnick takes us from Elvis' humble beginnings in Tupelo, Mississippi to his departure for Army duty in Germany twenty-three years later. In between, readers will be fascinated with what they THOUGHT they knew about Elvis. LAST TRAIN differs from other books about Elvis in two very distinct ways: First, the author gives us first hand accounts from the people who were actually there. There's no tabloid journalism or second-hand anecdotes. Guralnick has done his research and it shows. Second, Elvis is never presented as an icon or an idol. Guralnick has the unique ability to step back away from the action as an impartial observer and give us an extraordinarily clear image of what Elvis was really like - a really nice, clean, religious kid who was consumed with music and making people happy.
You can almost feel the electricity of the recording sessions at Sun Studios. You can watch Sam Phillips as he realizes that this boy could change the course of popular music forever. Elvis' girls, friends, musicians...they're all here and they all have a piece of the story to tell. And what about the "Colonel" Tom Parker? Genius or huckster?
Of course, the hysteria is recorded as well. After all, it's part of the story. Crazed fans were nothing new. After all, girls had been going nuts over singers like Frank Sinatra and many others for years. But the world had never seen anything like this? How can you explain it? Guralnick never really comes right out with an explanation, but you'll be able to pick it up between the lines.
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32 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Elvis 101 January 19, 2001
"Last Train to Memphis" and its sequel, "Careless Love", make a deeply engrossing, carefully researched, finely written biography of Elvis Presley.
Author Peter Guralnick took eleven years to exhaustively research sources and interview people who knew Elvis personally and would tell their firsthand experiences. Guralnick's scholarly approach automatically eschews any hint of the fan adoration that can taint celebrity biographies. Guralnick might even have erred on the dry side rather than the juicy or dishy side of the story. This is all to the good, because Elvis' life story, a fantastic, zany, epic arc through American pop culture, is one that needs no embellishment and is served well by a measure of journalistic restraint.
Guralnick made a wise choice with the two-book format, because in Elvis' life there was a distinct "Rise and Fall." "Last Train to Memphis" is the rise: "Careless Love" is the fall. In each volume, Guralnick reveals much not just about Elvis, but about the people who were his family and closest friends and how their actions and relationships to him and to each other shaped Elvis into the man he became.
Accounts of his school days, his early days as a musician, his early girlfriends, and his family life all flesh him out as a human being and penetrate the shell of celebrity to offer a three-dimesional glimpse of the individual and his own ideas and aspirations and insecurities. The first volume ends with the death of Elvis' mother, a loss that sent him into the first tailspin of many, from which he never seemed to recover.
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36 of 38 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars great bio October 13, 2000
Peter Guralnick demonstrated in his definitive history of Soul music, Sweet Soul Music : Rhythm and Blues and the Southern Dream of Freedom, that he has a nearly unique grasp of the singular way in which popular music and the political culture intersect in American society. Along with Robert Palmer (Deep Blues) and Greil Marcus (Mystery Train), he has helped to craft a still pretty slender body of literature which takes pop music and its impact seriously, but also places it within a larger societal context. Now, in his two part biography of Elvis Presley, he has set out to strip away both the mythology (Volume One) and the demonology (Volume Two) that obscure Elvis and to restore some reasonable sense of perspective on the man and his music. In so doing, he offers us a new and useful opportunity to understand the personal and societal forces that converged to make him into The King, one of the genuine cultural icons of the 20th Century, and to trigger the Rock & Roll Era.
There are several main factors that Guralnick cites, which appear to have had a particular influence on how events transpired. First is the city of Memphis itself, which served as a nearly perfect crucible for forging the blend of Gospel, Country, Blues and Rhythm & Blues that made up Elvis's sound. A southern city, but not Deep South, there was at least limited interaction between the white and black worlds. But most importantly for this story, the city was saturated with music.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
First of all, let me make one thing clear...I am NOT an Elvis fan nor have I ever have been. Now, don't me wrong...I think Elvis is great! Really, he is and was THE KING. Read more
Published 29 days ago by C. Saunders
4.0 out of 5 stars A new Angle on Elvis
Quite a story of how a great talent can be wasted before it matures and becomes even better. What a loss!
Published 1 month ago by Dave Patrick
5.0 out of 5 stars Very well researched
As a Memphian it's interesting to read the detailed rise of the "King". People I know of, places I'm familiar with, come to life in this biopic. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mark J. Saslawsky
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book, great buy
This book was in excellent condition, like new, with its dust cover intact. For the price it was an excellent buy. Read more
Published 2 months ago by
5.0 out of 5 stars Required reading for serious students of Rock 'N' Roll
The book covers day to day life for Elvis from his birth to the time period of his induction into the Army in 1958. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Robert K.
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent reading!
I enjoyed this book immensely. I gave a wonderful account, however accurate, of Elvis's rise to fame. I came away knowing Elvis in a way I never had before
Published 3 months ago by Lorraine G. Sutherland
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
An excellent book about Elvis's life. Author reveals a side of him that
I had no inkling of. he really was a troubled man.
Published 3 months ago by maurkee
5.0 out of 5 stars Unvelling Elvis
Musical innovation is full of danger to the state, for when modes of music change, the laws of the state always change with them. Read more
Published 4 months ago by melina zora
5.0 out of 5 stars A detailed, deep and revealing portrait
Author Peter Guralnick says he wrote "Last Train to Memphis" because he "wanted to rescue Elvis Presley from the dreary bondage of myth. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Barry Sparks
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, detailed account
This is a solid, factual account of Elvis: The Early Years. I'm thoroughly enjoying it - if I have any complaint, and it's minor, it's that at times it gets buried in the details... Read more
Published 4 months ago by Paul A Braun
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More About the Author

"Peter Guralnick is widely regarded as the nation's preeminent writer on twentieth-century American popular music. His books include Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway, Sweet Soul Music, Searching for Robert Johnson, the novel Nighthawk Blues, and a highly acclaimed two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love."

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