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Extended Audio Sample Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley, by Peter Guralnick Click for printable size audiobook cover
4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (1,932 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Peter Guralnick Narrator: Kevin Stillwel Publisher: Hachette Book Group Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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 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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Quotes & Awards

  • “What Mr. Guralnick gives us is a passionate, detailed chronicle of Presley’s early years and fame.”

    New York Times

  • “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.”


  • “Bound to be the definitive biography of the King…A serious, musically literate, and historically attuned biography. An American epic that belongs on every bookshelf.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “There’s no mention of sequins, drugs, or peanut butter in this understated biography of the teenaged Elvis, a serious and worthy attempt to answer the question, “Who was this guy before he was an icon, the voice of a generation, the King?” The essential clarity and honesty of Guralnick’s prose clearly limns the eager, malleable boy whose immense talent changed the course of American music.”

    Amazon.com, editorial review

Listener Opinions

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Brian Quick | 2/16/2014

    " Definitive...eye opening. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by Kathryne | 2/16/2014

    " Cool bio of the king. Lots of interesting details you never knew you could know. A good book, as bios go. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 by O'linda | 2/13/2014

    " Left this book in Memphis during Elvis Week. I've visited the town several times during my son's stay there and found the historic detail about the South and the old radio stations and shows interesting. This writer seemed more interested in chronicling Elvis's rise to stardom and the hoopla surrounding it than deifying him as a pop icon. Some good pictures, but there are so many out there it's hard to tell what's what. Try gong to Graceland, it's a real study in popular culture, kitsch, and bad taste. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 by Burt Campbell | 2/12/2014

    " Sometimes you think you want definitive, I mean, the alternative would be scattershot, incomplete- nobody wants THAT, right? So, yeah, this book IS definitive in scope, through detail & methodology. I have no quarrel with Guralnick, not in style or content. But I couldn't finish it. Maybe I'm just not enough of an Elvis fan. "

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About the Author

Peter Guralnick is widely regarded as the nation’s preeminent writer on twentieth-century American popular music. His books include Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway, Sweet Soul Music, Searching for Robert Johnson, the novel Nighthawk Blues, and a highly acclaimed two-volume biography of Elvis Presley, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love.