Last Train to Memphis

  • by Peter Guralnick
  • Narrated by Kevin Stillwell
  • 22 hrs and 37 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

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.

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What the Critics Say

"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

Most Helpful

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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- Vicki

Absolutely outstanding.

What made the experience of listening to Last Train to Memphis the most enjoyable?

This book is heavy on the details - reading the researched minutia might have been a little bit overwhelming. The performance of the reader, combined with an incredible biography, made me listen to this book non-stop. It was incredible.


What was one of the most memorable moments of Last Train to Memphis?

All of it was wonderful, but the reader clearly understood where to put the emphasis and inflection. He was wonderful. I loved hearing him pretend to cheer like a teenage girl! The ending was heartbreaking, and he used the power of his dramatic pause very effectively.


Which character – as performed by Kevin Stillwell – was your favorite?

His portrayal of Elvis was wonderful - capturing the slight drawl and accent without going overboard was wonderful.


Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

As previously stated, when Elvis' mother passed away. It was heartbreaking. I was weeding in the garden and started to cry. Ha!


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- colleen

Book Details

  • Release Date: 11-01-2012
  • Publisher: Hachette Audio