Elvis – Book Overview

Elvis Books to have

I have many many many Elvis books ranging from serious biographies, to gossip/tell all, picture books and a lot of in-between.

I started thinking about what books that I would recommend, so here’s my list and I am curious about what books everyone else has read that they would recommend and why.

There may be better ones out there, but I can only go by the 300 books that I own and have read. there’s over 2000 books about Elvis, so I have only made a small dent.

1. Peter Guralnick’s lastTrain to Memphis/Careless Love ( I count these 2 books as one since they are part 1 and 2)

I think this is a well researched and balanced pair of books that provided a lot of insight into the work Elvis put into his career and into the people who helped make – and unmake – him

2. Elaine Dundy’s Elvis and Gladys

Excellent research and detailed accounting of his childhood – one of the first books to really focus on this area – details several controversial subjects in a non-exploitative manner – you got a real sense of the time period and people Elvis came from and a real sense of Gladys as a person

3. Alanna Nash – Elvis and the Colonel

The most important professional relationship Elvis had as well as the most misunderstood and controversial.

Alanna is probably the only biographer of Parker and she digs very deep into his Dutch shadowy past.

Parker was a brilliant promoter who was determined to make Elvis the biggest star and the highest paid – and for many years, Elvis was the top earning singer and actor.

Parker and Elvis had a unique partnership, with Parker having all the business smarts and Elvis having the artistic smarts and neither one really understanding the other. A recipe for a disastrous success.

4. Word by Word – Jerry Osborne

Transcripts of all known Elvis interviews, press conference and public utterances. Even a reproduction of the only public writing Elvis did – an article for Motorcycle Enthusiast magazine in the 1950’s.

5. The Death of Elvis by Charles C Thompson II and James P Cole

This book contains details of the leaked autopsy, interviews with the medical team members, review of what the hospital did and didn’t do – not for the faint of heart

Elvis books to avoid

As for Elvis books to avoid, there’s actually a lot of them. Many Elvis books do little to advance any understanding or analysis of Elvis.

So, rather than specific books, here’s the categories of books that I would recommend avoiding:

1. anything by any member of the Stanley family.

If you’re familiar with Elvis’ story, you pretty much already know why.

If you’re not, the short version is that Davada “Dee” Stanley and her three sons, Bill, David, and Rick Stanley between the four of them have published about 10 books in various combination and solo efforts. Plus a terrible movie, Protecting the King.

In 1980, the four of them penned their first effort Elvis: We Love You Tender.

Dee was quoted to say that it would make the bodyguard book (Elvis What Happened) look like a kindergarten reader.

So, their books and various claims have all been launched from that poison pen.
2. By any woman claiming to have had his child or long term relationship but is unable to provide even a photo of herself with Elvis

Goes without saying – even that Vegas stripper Tempest Storm who claimed a one nighter with Elvis prior to his army induction had a photo with him.

3. Anyone who had a short term association or arms length employee relationship

Yet claims to now want to reveal the true Elvis, set the record straight or make right all the negative rumours.

They generally paint a worse picture of Elvis than the one they claim to be correcting – but really, how would a person who knew him a few months or in a narrow context know him better than people who were regularly around him at work and at play?

And incidentally, these arm’s length folks are pretty much never mentioned in any books by Memphis Mafia guys or serious writers who do research and interviews and put effort into their books.
4. Books by any person who didn’t know Elvis and didn’t do interviews with people who knew him and have no particular training in pop culture or music analysis

They tend based their book on a fantasy relationship and or a mystical connection

A big tip off for books in the third and fourth category is that if the book has photos, they are all publicity photos, concert images or fan taken candids.

Never anything that suggests an actual meeting took place and the writer certainly didn’t take the photo.
Anyways, that’s my rule of thumb for book buying.

On to more reviews!

3 thoughts on “Elvis – Book Overview

  1. Liked your Elvis Books list. The Alanna Nash – Elvis and the Colonel Book was really great. Another book not necessarily about Elvis is:

    Dewey and Elvis: The Life and Times of a Rock ‘n’ Roll Deejay (Music in American Life)


    It’s an amazing story. Dewey was very instrumental in Elvis’s career. His own demise and death were very sad. Thanks.

  2. Great comments here. Totally agree with your “Avoidance” list.
    My personal favorite is Paul Simpson’s Rough Guide to Elvis, small but packed with info.

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