Peter Guralnick's books include the prize-winning two-volume
biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and
Careless Love. He is a recent inductee in the Blues Hall of
Fame. Other books include an acclaimed trilogy on American roots
music, Sweet Soul Music, Lost Highway, and Feel
Like Going Home; the biographical inquiry Searching for
Robert Johnson; the novel, Nighthawk Blues; and Dream
Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke. His most recent book is Sam
Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock 'n' Roll.
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. (Oct.)
Another work on Presley? Since Guralnick is ``one of the best, most respected popular music historians'' in the business (Sweet Soul Blues Music, LJ 6/1/ 86), this could be good.
"A triumph of biographical art...Profound and moving."--Stephen
Wright, New York Times Book Review
"Elvis steps from the pages. You can feel him breathe. This book cancels out all others."--Bob Dylan
"Altogether splendid...It is the particular and spectacular achievement of Last Train to Memphis that it holds both the making of the history and the beginning of the myth in firm, simple, and compassionate focus."--Jay Cocks, Time