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Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley | [Peter Guralnick]

Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley

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, and the early RCA hits.
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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

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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

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  •  
    Vicki Montpelier, VA, United States 07-12-13
    Vicki Montpelier, VA, United States 07-12-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Randy Sparta, GA, United States 01-24-13
    Randy Sparta, GA, United States 01-24-13 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "I now have a better understanding of Elvis now!"
    If you could sum up Last Train to Memphis in three words, what would they be?

    Very informative and it held my attention for 22 hours.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Of coarse, Elvis. I was never crazy about him in general growing up, but I now have a new opinion of him as a very geniune person.


    What about Kevin Stillwell’s performance did you like?

    He made you believe he was actually there with the characters.


    If you were to make a film of this book, what would be the tag line be?

    What you never knew about Elvis, the person.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joachim Møller Denmark 04-24-15
    Joachim Møller Denmark 04-24-15 Member Since 2014
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    5
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    "True fans will be delighted."

    Long as hell which is good. Great value for money. Nice narrator. Intimate details I never knew about and overall fascinating.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Sherry 02-25-15
    Sherry 02-25-15 Member Since 2015
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    3
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    "OMG!"

    Narrator was monotone. Story jumps around. Slow n unenthusiasicly read. More emphasis on who quotations needed.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KellysHero718 02-21-15
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Wonderfully Thorough"

    A most satisfying portrait of a young man lost. It has changed my perspective of the human being behind the music, and has inspired a greater appreciation for the singer's less well-known recordings.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    colleen Regina, SK, Canada 06-11-13
    colleen Regina, SK, Canada 06-11-13 Member Since 2015
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    "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!


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Mark Caledonia, MI, United States 02-01-13
    Mark Caledonia, MI, United States 02-01-13 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book for die hard fans"
    Where does Last Train to Memphis rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    It would rank somewhere in the middle


    Any additional comments?

    This book is a book for Elvis fans, It was a little slow in parts but all and all a pretty good listen...

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • Showing: 1-7 of 7 results
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  • Brendan
    Hamamatsu, Japan
    11/8/12
    Overall
    "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 ....

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Arnold Cossor
    5/14/15
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    Story
    "The best audiobook that I have ever listen to?"

    It is hard to imagine a better audiobook about contemporary music than this. This book covers a subject that many will feel familiar with. However throughout this book there is a feeling of authenticity and accuracy that it is hard to imagine being beaten in regard to this subject.
    It really takes you into a time and place and makes it all real to you. It does not put forward detailed theories and interpretations but lets you decide how you use the material.
    It somehow makes you feel that you are there but makes you forget the incredible impact that this period was ultimately to have on popular music and western culture overall subsequently.
    I would also like to say that the reading is particularly good. The story is told in quite a leisurely way that again, seems to fit the material.
    A great book on a very important subject. And audiobook that was a real pleasure to listen to.
    Now for volume two................

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Bim
    2/4/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wow..... Unbelievable insight in the like of elvis"

    This book was so much better than I expected. I thought I know the life and times of the early years of rock n roll, I was mistaken.
    This book paints a brilliant picture of the legend and make you look at him as a normal human being.
    This is a great book for fans and non fans or people (like myself) who just have an interest in music and history..........
    The book really puts you there and explains the story so well.
    Amazing.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Phil
    1/24/15
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "How did they make this story so dull?"

    This is the ultimate rock and roll success story. How did they make it quite so dreary, so dull and so depressive?

    Somehow the narrator makes this whole experience ridden with a sense of poverty and failure and exploitation. There is just no joy in the telling - there is no celebration, and no victory.

    The narrative tends to adopt a very detached perspective - a more than slightly cynical voice - and never really achieves a sense of being in the time. It is all painted with a colour that is entirely from today - and looking back it was all so inevitable - but the searing, revolutionary quality of Elvis' arrival and rocketing velocity is missing.

    If you substituted what Elvis had with some sort of a disease - that is how this comes across. It is like Elvis had some terrible, but irresistible disease, a date with his own inevitable doom - that somehow ruined this poor poor, dirt poor, southern boy, and exploited him along the way.

    I do not recommend this.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Eileen Hood
    Biggar, United Kingdom
    10/30/14
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Slow starting"
    What made the experience of listening to Last Train to Memphis the most enjoyable?

    I found this book hard to get into but about a third of the way I got quite immersed. Towards the end I was keen to keep listening as it was getting more interesting then. I learned more about Elvis than ever before and at times it made me wonder how the author got all the information although the book was many years in the making.


    Who was your favorite character and why?

    Elvis of course.


    What about Kevin Stillwell’s performance did you like?

    At times he seemed a bit lifeless and just running off a list of subjects but was not too bad overall.


    Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    Not with this book


    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
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