Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

Peter Guralnick / Feb 22, 2020

Last Train to Memphis The Rise of Elvis Presley From the moment that he first shook up the world in the mid s Elvis Presley has been one of the most vivid and enduring myths of American culture Last Train to Memphis The Rise of Elvis Presley i

  • Title: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley
  • Author: Peter Guralnick
  • ISBN: 9780316332255
  • Page: 151
  • Format: Paperback
  • 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 noFrom 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.

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    About "Peter Guralnick"

      • Peter Guralnick

        Peter Guralnick is an American music critic, writer on music, and historian of US American popular music, who is also active as an author and screenwriter He has been married for over 45 years to Alexandra He has a son and daughter, Jacob and Nina.Guralnick s first two books, Almost Grown 1964 and Mister Downchild 1967 , were short story collections published by Larry Stark, whose small press in Cambridge, Larry Stark Press, was devoted to stories and poems Mona Dickson, writing in MIT s The Tech May 13, 1964 gave Almost Grown a favorable review.After Guralnick graduated from Boston University in 1971 with a master s degree in creative writing, he began writing books chronicling the history of blues, country, rock and roll and soul.His two volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis in 1994, followed by Careless Love in 1999, placed the story of Presley s career into a rise and fall arc Encompassing than 1,300 pages including 1,150 pages of text , the work countered earlier biographies such as Albert Goldman s Elvis from 1981 with an in depth, scholarly examination of Presley s life and music Guralnick had previously written on Presley in the The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock Roll, starting with the first edition in 1976, said article having been reprinted for each subsequent edition.Larry Stark Press published Peter Guralnick s second book in 1967 A first edition is currently valued at 200.In contrast to contemporaries such as Lester Bangs, Ian Penman and Nick Tosches, whose music writings are marked by idiosyncratic, self referential and highly personal styles, Guralnick s writing is characterized by a colloquial approach that is clean and understated by comparison In his best passages, he has an ability to simultaneously empathize and remain objective Writing as a music fan, his enthusiasm powers his writing but doesn t overpower it.Guralnick wrote the script for AE s documentary, Sam Phillips The Man Who Invented Rock n Roll, narrated by Billy Bob Thornton, and he also scripted Sam Cooke Legend, narrated by Jeffrey Wright.


    1. One of the most exhilarating stories ever told. Guralnick accomplishes something astonishing -- he rescues Elvis from myth, in the process reaffirms his legend. This volume chronicles Elvis's early life -- his crackling charisma, musical inventiveness and genuine iconoclasm. The backdrop is America in transformation -- postwar restlessness, racial integration and (much needed) rebellion. In the end, we see why America needed Elvis, and why, sadly, his tragic fall was so inevitable. As good a boo [...]

    2. Another book I picked up after last fall’s trips to visit my friends Heather and Clay in the wonderful city of Memphis. Great book, couldn’t put it down. Reviewers say it’s the best book on Elvis around. Haven’t read much about Elvis, but I can’t imagine it getting much better than this. A very sympathetic account, it keeps an eye on what is important about Elvis – his astonishing talents – and not the sordid stuff (although the sordid stuff is mentioned). To my delight, Elvis’s [...]

    3. A sharply-rendered and painstakingly-detailed account of Elvis' early days. Guralnick's narrative prose is simple, even crude, but his material is richly precise: in some places, we get an almost day-by-day account of Elvis' life and career, with sources split neatly between firsthand interviews and the author's own historical knowledge, which is impressive. Guralnick is, it should be noted, a far better historian than he is a writer, and there are whole blocks of prose that ramble indistinctly [...]

    4. the Elvis book left me speechless and amazed. Dreaming about hillbilly forevers. Sentimental on a Sun Recording bender that nearly drove the neighbors to nail my windows shut to save them from the pain of the thousandth play of "Its all Alright Momma" at full volume. Have you ever seen "Jesus Camp?" It was kinda like that but with Elvis instead of Jesus and I only cried when Gladiolus died near the end. To say Elvis is iconic from Tokyo to Mobile and cult like for many that hide in Dixie caves i [...]

    5. This enormous biography takes Elvis from his birth in 1935, through his gradual rise to stardom and on to the death of his beloved mother. The author meticulously lists every live concert date, every record and every film made, but that is not all the book is about. As well as explaining how and why Elvis became the huge star he became, it explains who he was. The gentle boy who loved his mother and who never seemed to be anything other than caring (if a little fickle) with his many girlfriends, [...]

    6. Long live the King! Before you dismiss this with, "I don't like Elvis," it doesn't matter. It is a really cool look at 50s culture in the U.S and the development of the first true music mega-star. This book will also appeal to people interested in Southern culture. Guralnick does a great job with describing the alignment of hemispheres that allowed Elvis to became the huge sensation that he was. I was particularly facinated in the details of Elvis' first long-term relationships; both women were [...]

    7. Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley is beautifully written portrait of Presley's early years -- his impoverished childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi, the move to Memphis in his teenage years, and the amazingly rich and complex soup of musical influences that city offered to a shy, sensitive boy with a huge love of singing and music of all kinds.The Elvis you meet in this book is not the troubled, larger-than life, jumpsuit-wearing star of the Vegas years that may first spring to mind w [...]

    8. I was an Irish kid in Germany in 1958 (my Dad worked in the AFEX system as an accountant) when Elvis came over as an army draftee. A family friend got his autograph for me which I lost soon after (damn & double-damn!)and this is the point where this book - the first of a two-part biography - closes. It takes us from Elvis' birth in Tupelo to his family's move to Memphis, his geeky high school days, the $12 guitar his father bought for him, and his burning desire to cut a record. This brought [...]

    9. Since this is the first book I've read about Elvis I can't compare it to the rest of the mountains of scholarship. I'm not part of the fawning chorus who think this is a gripping and incredible journey through the early life of one of America's most mythologized and misunderstood pop artists. While I understand why Guralnick might have toned down his presence in the narrative (an Elvis book is kind of the big leagues) I found his personal relationship to the characters in Sweet Soul Music and Lo [...]

    10. My first contact with Elvis was through my older brother who listened to his music religiously. I was just a dumb kid, but I thought that Elvis was handsome. Now that I can look back on Elvis and his impact on the music business, I can easily see why he is the "King" and how he was able to do what he did. Much of it was due to natural talent. He was not only a talented entertainer, but he had a presence about him that can't be taught. You have it or you don't. He obviously had it. He was "attrac [...]

    11. Peter Guralnick's books on American R&B, Soul, Country, Blues and Rock and Roll are all heartfelt, deeply researched, and written nearly entirely in the third person, and that last bit separates him from the self aggrandizing that mars the writing of so many other music writers covering the same ground. If he has a fault it is his reverence for his subjects. Accordingly, this first volume of his two volume biography of Elvis Presley will set you aglow with the excitement, innocence and exube [...]

    12. Elvis is the most iconic post-War American figure, so the breadth of Guralnick's task - separating man from myth through the first of two five-hundred pagers - merits respect. Despite some average writing and mundane details, his portrayal of the man is captivating. Guralnick's Elvis is a poor, humble boy whose singular talent, looks, and ambition provide the ultimate catalyst for a watershed moment in American culture. Still, at the end of the day, the music is at the heart of this story, and t [...]

    13. The omnipotent sex appeal. The innate talent. The taste. The clothes. The moves. Yes, I noticed it too: reading this biography of Elvis Presley was like a plagiarism of my life. The meteoric rise of the Pelvis is documented with great research and even greater restraint, bringing the larger-to-life Presley into a perspective that creates empathy for the man behind the legend. I'm eager to read the companion piece that follows Elvis' tour of duty in the armed servieces and later years to learn ho [...]

    14. The definitive volume on the life of Elvis Presley (along with Careless Love: the Unmaking of Elvis Presley, also by Guralnick) observed with both the detail and the distance required of a great biography. Let's face it: Elvis is THE American story about rock and roll, race, fame, and decline—and Guralnick provides the essential details with an attention that could only come from someone who loved Elvis's music.

    15. This was so good. Exciting, moving & so full of detail I felt like I could really see the events being described: a painfully shy Elvis transforming into a ball of energy on stage, coming out as if he had been "shot out of a cannon." Wonderful.

    16. With 'Careless Love', this two-part book about Elvis is one of the best biographies I've ever read. It's completely un-cheesy and treats him seriously. In this first part, it is fascinating to see how he grew as a singer and musician in those early days, up to his time as a GI in Germany.

    17. Explaining Elvis Presley as a cultural phenomenon remains an elusive task. Some twenty years after publication of the first volume of Peter Guralnick’s two-volume study of Elvis Presley, and nearly thirty-seven years after the entertainer’s death, there is little sign that the King’s popularity may be lessening. On the contrary, Elvis appears to be more popular today than he was when he gasped his last breath in 1977 face-down in the shag carpeting of his Graceland bedroom.Like Elvis himse [...]

    18. It was Sunday the third of June 1956 and I was attending one of the first music concerts of my teenage years and it was the first of two concerts Elvis Presley would perform that day. I could only snatch short bits of recognizable songs for much of his appearance - due to the constant noise made by the mostly female members of the audience. Never-the-less he was fascinating to watch as he performed his trademark wiggles and shakes on the stage. And I was happy to have been there for that first S [...]

    19. The first book Guralnik wrote about Elvis Presley was a page-turner. I zipped through it. I did not realize he had come from such a poverty stricken background. I did learn from this volume that he was much a loner, few friends, and a father who was not a reliable breadwinner. Further, I wondered if being a surviving twin with a mother who told him that he ( Elvis Presley) was given all the responsibility of both himself and his twin's must have put an incredible burden on him. Clearly, he and G [...]

    20. When I was growing up, Elvis was a cliche. His schtick had become so worn in culture and entertainment that I saw him as a has-been, an entertainer who appealed mostly to crazy, middle aged ladies. But, as with most art that has achieved recognition, appreciation comes from understanding the context of time and place, and how some new thing shows up on the cultural stage. When I was old enough to be aware of Elvis, he had spawned so many imitators, it was hard to know what the real essence of El [...]

    21. One of the greatest biographies I have read. A vigorous, exciting, and revealing picture of a true icon. Presley's early years seem somewhat enigmatic and impenetrable to the casual observer (at least to me, I never understood how those records at Sun could have happened), but Guralnick succeeds in immersing the reader in Elvis's life and world with such skill one might forget that they were never there. We finally see the mysterious young man who performed masterpieces which shook the world not [...]

    22. I'm so glad I read this book - or rather - listened to it on audiobook. It was excellent! Not only did I learn a ton about the early years and rise of Elvis Presley, I know his early music now! I had so much fun with it (iTunes streaming makes it easy to listen to every song they talk about!) Now, I can't stop all the songs from playing in my head - I'm even planning a trip to Memphis! Little did I know I'd be so taken with him! This really was a well written interesting biography that ends with [...]

    23. Great award winning biography. You can really get a sense of the humaness and vulnerability of Elvis, Elvis seems like a real person. I found the book quite piognant, as his youth, innocence, creativity, and interest in music is explored.The most compelling aspect of this book for me was that I really got a sense of Elvis' creativity and musical and fashion artistry as something real, genuine, non-contrived and down to earth. I also enjoyed reading about historical connections to American South, [...]

    24. Can I rate this book less than one star? With a negative number? I actually started this book at the end of Dec. 2012. I've read 97 books in the interim. After a certain point, stubbornness alone made me finish. I literally had to force myself to pick it up and read another chapter. Detailed much? Enough to take the life out of Elvis. Example sentence: "He showed up at the draft board in the M&M Building at 198 South Main at 6:35 the next morning and parked just south of the Malco Theatre." [...]

    25. This book was no use for me. Too dull & too detailed. When I first picked this book I had very high expectations because the cover is beautiful, great reviews and I saw a potential but it did not meet my expectations at all. I was let down. I miserably tried to finish it hoping maybe it would get better somehow but nope! It's either Elvis's early life was too boring or the writer's writing was just not worthy I'm not sure though which of the two is the correct answer.

    26. Fascinating read for one who was never an Elvis fan. I now have a greater appreciation for Elvis and the time period of his meteoric rise in the music industry. Peter Guralnick is a scholarly writer who makes the people of this era multidimensional. Having lived this same time frame, I now better understand my own life.

    27. An excellent book that gives you a great biography of Elvis and his start. My only complaint would be there is too much information.

    28. It was beautifully written in a style that made you feel you maybe knew Elvis. The density of research of the other artists and song writers making up his milieu and influence was great too.

    29. A surprisingly insightful read about the rise of Elvis, before he became tragic tabloid fodder. Can't wait to get to the second book.

    30. I love Elvis. To learn about him is to learn about the USA. This book was well-researched and deservedly honest, I think.

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