Last Train to Memphis…book by Peter Guralnick

I’ve read numerous books about The Beatles and other rock stars but never one on Elvis. This book is detailed pretty well and you get to know Elvis, his friends, and family up until 1958 and after his mother’s death. Peter Guralnick does a very good job not dwelling too long in one place. He keeps the story moving at a good pace. Guralnick is very even-handed and does not sensationalize his life.

Peter does have a second book called “Careless Love” I will start reading soon that covers the rest of Elvis’s life when things come unraveled.

I grew up listening to Elvis. I was never a huge fan. He was a great entertainer and interrupter of other people’s songs. He helped open the door to blues. soul and rock music for the masses like The Beatles and Stones did later.

You meet some very interesting and historical characters. Sam Phillips who first signed Elvis to Sun Records, Dewey Phillips (famous Memphis DJ) who first played “It’s All Right” on the radio, Hank Snow, and many others. Elvis wasn’t an overnight sensation but his success just continued to grow until it was uncontrollable. He covers the tours and tv appearances.

I’ve never thought too much of Colonel Tom Parker and this book didn’t help. Keeping Elvis separated from anyone who could influence him and caring more about his investment than the person.

Even at this early stage, I started feeling sorry for Elvis because of the isolation of not being able to go out in public without causing a scandal or being chased. He did have some close relationships with girls that were broken up because of the situation Elvis was in.

The part that disappointed me was that Elvis seemed to neglect his band. Scotty Moore and Bill Black were put on salary and could not work for anyone else. Scotty has blamed it on some RCA execs and Parker. They were with Elvis through the lean times and Scotty even managed them at the beginning. Scotty’s guitar help develop Elvis’s sound at the beginning.

Overall Elvis comes off as a good kid who got the world thrown at him and being his age he took it rather well. He was nearly always gracious to his fans, friends, and family.

If I had to give a rating I would give it 5 stars out of 5… A great book on how he began and it did clear up some myths built around him.

Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

18 thoughts on “Last Train to Memphis…book by Peter Guralnick”

  1. i am glad you liked the book- you can’t go wrong with any of Guralnick’s books. I think he treats his subjects with respect. Even in volume 2 when things were unraveling with Elvis he doesn’t turn him into this tabloidish cartoon buffoon figure. Just throwing this one out there to check out in the future- Gulalnick’s bio on Sam Phillips. It came out 3 1/2 years ago and I’ve already read it twice.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the recommendation… I really enjoyed it and I like when the author is fair. After looking around, this looks like the “Tune In” of Elvis books. I will get the Phillips book…
      Sam was an interesting character.
      Dewey was really interesting also.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. In Waco, Texas, Elvis is part of the local lore because of the brief time he spent in Fort Hood nearby while in army. He liked to eat at one particular restaurant in the city when he could go off base, the Elite Cafe, and there was controversy when Joanna and Chip Gaines (the ‘Fixer Upper’ pair) bought that , then-closed restaurant because they changed the name to Magnolia Table. Many thought it was too iconic to change the name or sign…because “Elvis ate there!”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes he goes through that period in the book about be stationed at Fort Hood and where he went and who he stayed with in Texas. I understand where the people are coming from because that is what it’s famous for… but saying that… it was closed anyway

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep…other alternative was likely for it to be torn down so I think they should be happy it’s preserved with only a few minor alterations to exterior, and I think some plaque mentioning Elvis inside

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That definitely sounds like a worthwhile read. I too have never had a good feeling about Parker. It’s disappointing for sure, how Scotty and Bill were treated. You’ve been to Sun Studio, haven’t you? That place really made me get a feel for how things were done back then with Elvis and the others.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m ashamed to say I haven’t been there. I’ve been to Graceland twice but not Sun. I do plan to go next time we go.
      I never knew much about Elvis…this book is good. Not a trashy bio at all. I’m sure Parker will get worse in the other book. Elvis was a good kid…it is heart wrenching when his mom dies. He did have 3 very serious girlfriends…a very good book.


      1. I hope our library has the book.

        You really must get to Sun. It’s one of my all-time favorite tourist stops. It’s so totally preserved, and not gimmicky or overdone. It’s a working studio today, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I totally will especially after reading about it. I’ve read where it’s not too high for a band to go there and record.
        I’m on the second book now…it picks up right after his mom passes.


      3. Our little band thought about it years ago…our guitar player is a huge Elvis fan…it was affordable to us at the time so it was cheap.
        I still havent finished Sticky Fingers yet….


      4. It sounds like you should plan that recording session.

        I’m laughing about Sticky Fingers. I think I took a 3-week break from it before making myself go back and finish it.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. I feel bad but he is just so smug and unlikeable. You warned me. I’m not even a quarter through it. I will get there after Elvis.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. I often wondered how Elvis would have fared if he had a different manager, same goes for Michael Jackson, the Spirit has to fly, and when it’s cornered too long, it can go any any where, thanks

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think he might have been in a more healthy situation… The Beatles were more looked out for by Epstein and not just for money.


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