Reading: Last Train to Memphis

This past January, on what would have been Elvis Presley’s 75th birthday (Jan 8.), I was watching some concert specials and sharing some thoughts on Twitter. It then occurred to me that I’d never read a definitive biography about the life of the King. One of the great things about Twitter is the instant feedback, so I put the question out there – what Elvis bio do I need to pick up? The answer came quickly from Dave and Ken: Peter Guralnick’s two-volume series: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley and Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley.

I started Last Train a week or so ago, and let’s just say I am enthralled by this book. Reading about Elvis’s early days recording for Sam Phillips at the Memphis Recording Service, his early tours around the South with the Louisiana Hayride and Hank Snow‘s Jamboree – going from virtual unknown to the new “country & western” sensation… and up to where I currently am in the book: being scooped up by Colonel Tom Parker and signing with RCA (who bought out his contract from Sun for $35,000 – the highest price paid for a contract buyout to date).

It’s really a fantastic book, and I want to urge anyone who hasn’t read it to go pick it up (Amazon: Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley)

Many know that Elvis’s first hit with Sun Records was “That’s Alright Mama”. But those early sessions in 1954 started out with Elvis singing “Harbor Lights,” a ballad made popular by Bing Crosby. This is the very first song recorded in Elvis Presley’s very first studio session (with Scotty Moore on guitar and Bill Black on bass):

From Elvis At Sun

One Comment

  • Judd6149

    Pete: this is a great book. I love all of Guralnick’s work. Have you read “Lost Highway” & “feel Like Going Home”? A great collection of profiles on artist that impacted music forever more.

    The one I really love is “Sweet Soul Music”. Wow…I learned so much about the Soulful South from this. You should read this one next.

    My next Guralnick book will be “Searching for Robert Johnson”.

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