Last Train to Memphis

Guralnick, Peter. Last Train to Memphis: the Rise of Elvis Presley. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1994.

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.

As an aside, I found it interesting that in the author’s note, Guralnick mentions more than once that he felt he needed to “rescue” Elvis.

Reason read: Elvis was born in January. Need I say more?

Author fact: This is silly. I have been misspelling Peter’s last name for the longest time. I have been leaving out the N. It’s GuralNick.

Book trivia: Last Train to Memphis covers the years of 1935 – 1958. Careless Love continues where Last Train leaves off.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust in the chapter called “Elvis On My Mind” (p 76).



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