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Publisher's Summary

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 24 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 audiobook 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 audiobook 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.
©2012 Peter Guralnick (P)2012 Hachette Audio
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Critic Reviews

"The first half of Guralnick's projected two-volume biography is eminently engrossing. Taking pains to keep the story fresh and flowing and refraining from foreshadowing and editorializing, Guralnick lets the facts speak for themselves. If you really want only one Elvis biography, let this sensitive book be it." (Booklist)
"A serious, musically literate, and historically attuned biography. An American epic that belongs on every bookshelf." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Customer Reviews

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By Linda Lou on 06-12-17


I lived right behind Graceland from 1975 to 1978. I remember being unable to get home on the afternoon of August 16, 1977 due to the tens of thousands of people who filled the streets around Graceland after Elvis Presley was pronounced dead earlier that afternoon from a "heart attack". Two days later, since my husband and I were still not able to get near our complex, so we chose instead to stand in the sweltering Memphis, TN heat with that great mass of people - both rabid fans from around the world and just the merely curious - on what is now Elvis Presley Blvd., as the hearse carrying the body of "The King", followed by a dozen or so white limos with his superstar mourners, made its mournful way to nearby Forest Hill Cemetery.

Many books have been written about Presley since that day, most of which I have read. Each account has a different view of this man's life - some factual, some more fiction than truth, some vindictive, some self-serving. But, combined, one can get a pretty good idea of Presley's life and music. In my opinion, the best of the lot is "Elvis" by Albert Goldman (1981). But I still wanted to know more. So I bought Peter Guralnick's book. I couldn't be more disappointed!

After 22 hours, I still no idea what this book is about. It claims to chronicle the early years of Elvis Presley, yet there is very little about the REAL man in this book. The author writes like an 8 year-old doing a book report on a book he didn't read. The story is all over the place, his thoughts unfocused, no sense of chronology or local flavor. He will start telling us about an event or person but then not finish his point. The story is told in some weird, sometimes first-person manner, but you never know who is talking at the time. The narrator doesn't help, sounding bored, with no change in his voice for each person. He has a non-regional, generic voice, attempting to narrate a book about people from the seriously southern Mississippi and Tennessee!

Save yourself some time and money. Guralnick's effort is lazy, amateurish and superficial. Buy the Goldman biography on Elvis Presley. Some critics called it controversial at the time, but at least it's INTERESTING! At the very least, you will get great insight into the King and his huge "posse" (second only to the Disciples).

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

By Vicki on 07-12-13

I'm an Elvis fan now

Where does Last Train to Memphis rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I love biographies and, in recent years, have really enjoyed biographies from the music industry. Elvis was a little before my time so his music wasn't "my" music. I appreciated the impact that he had on rock and roll but I didn't really appreciate his music.

Much of what I knew about his was from the later part of his career. I knew nothing about his early years in the business. Mr. Guralnick did a great job of telling that story. The book was interesting from the first word to the last. It also prompted me to YouTube where I was able to see some of his work from his early years.

Now I understand what it was all about and I have a new appreciation for the man and his work.

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2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

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By Brendan on 11-08-12

Wow! Never thought it would be this good

I was a 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 him to Sam Phillips and Sun Records. This early recording took off thanks to radio play throughout the South and a series of live gigs followed getting ever bigger and bigger. Soon things became so big they nearly got out of control. From some peculiar mixture of gospel, hillbilly, and Negro blues Elvis had hit on a new sound that caught the imagination of teenage America. By the age of 21 (1956) he was pulling in huge audiences and the music moguls were taking an interest. The predatory ex-Carnie barker "Colonel" Tom Parker moved in to guide this boy along and in his manipulatory and conniving ways made Elvis a national phenomenon.

What makes this story so fascinating is the way it is told. The author, an early fan of the music, spent 11 years tracking down all the surviving friends and associates of Elvis and tells the story as if he were looking through a keyhole, recording conversations and first impressions and opinions from such a wide number of people that you begin to feel you are there yourself. The way this book was put together is extremely impressive: by no means is it your "standard" biography. Whether you like the music or not (I did even then, I still do!) you cannot help but get caught up in the story. After such a meteoric rise you just know that a fall is bound to come: hubris, as we know from the wise old Greeks, is followed by nemesis.

A second volume of the biography entitled "Careless Love" follows ....

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5 of 5 people found this review helpful

By severed head on 01-20-18

Excellent book

Bought both this and the next part/audiobook of the life of Elvis Presley. Extremely well read, flows smoothly and definitely worth buying this and the second book.

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By Anonymous User on 10-24-17

Elvis, what can i say. brilliant book

the bool was thorough and details and portayed a very unexpected side of elvis gor my first elvis book. I struggled a bit with the authors portrayal of a young high school elvis and the indecisiveness of whether he was confident with his guitar of terrified. other than that it was an epic story and i cant wait to learn more :)

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