Last Train to Memphis by Peter Guralnick
The Rise of Elvis Presley

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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.

About Peter Guralnick

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Peter Guralnick has been called "a national resource" by Nat Hentoff for work that has argued passionately and persuasively for the vitality of this country's intertwined black and white musical traditions. His books include the prize-winning two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. Of the first Bob Dylan wrote, "Elvis steps from the pages. You can feel him breathe. This book cancels out all others." Of the biography as a whole, the New York Times Book Review declared in a lead review, "It must be ranked among the most ambitious and crucial biographical undertakings yet devoted to a major American figure of the second half of the twentieth century." 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; and the novel, Nighthawk Blues. His latest book, Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke, has been hailed by the San Fransisco Chronicle as "monumental, epic tale told against a backdrop of brilliant, shimmering music, intense personal melodrama, and vast social changes." He is currently at work on a biography of Sam Phillips.
Published December 20, 2012 by Little, Brown and Company. 580 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Humor & Entertainment, Arts & Photography, Literature & Fiction. Non-fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Last Train to Memphis

Publishers Weekly

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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. Gu

Oct 03 1994 | Read Full Review of Last Train to Memphis: The Ri...

Entertainment Weekly

Book Review: 'Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley' Guralnick has done the impossible: He's brought a freshness, an innocence, and a seriousness to the life of Elvis Presley.

Sep 15 1995 | Read Full Review of Last Train to Memphis: The Ri...

Entertainment Weekly

In the extraordinary Last Train to Memphis: the Rise of Elvis Presley (Little, Brown, $24.95), writer Peter Guralnick has done the impossible: He has brought a freshness, an innocence, and a seriousness to the life of Elvis Presley.

Sep 30 1994 | Read Full Review of Last Train to Memphis: The Ri...

Las Vegas Review Journal

Guralnick explains his approach in an Author’s Note: “I had one simple aim in mind — at least it seemed simple to me at the start: to keep the story within ‘real’ time, to allow the characters to freely breathe their own air, to avoid imposing the judgment of another age, or even the alarums th...

Jan 15 2009 | Read Full Review of Last Train to Memphis: The Ri...

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