I’m sure there will be a ton of people. There could be a lot of people. There’s no way to know how many books about Elvis Presley have been written, but there have been a lot of them. Elvis has been the subject of a lot of books, and they’re still coming! Three or four books about Elvis come out every month. Even the most avid Elvis fans can’t keep up with them all.
To keep this blog going, I read a lot of Elvis books. Elvis books have to pass a credibility test before I’ll even think about adding them to my reading list. It has to make me believe that it has important, true, and interesting information about Elvis, told from a unique point of view. All but a few of them go back to the store. Sometimes I’ll take one home and put it in my Elvis library. The following 10 books are my picks for a basic “Elvis Library.” Together, they look at almost every part of Elvis Presley’s life and career from different angles. Of course, no other Elvis fan would come up with the same list. It’s possible that after reading this list, you might think of other Elvis books that should have been on it. I hope you’ll let me know.
Last Train to Memphis: The Rise of Elvis Presley (1994) / Careless Love: The Unmaking of Elvis Presley (1999) by Peter Guralnick
Biography: Guralnick’s two-volume set is still the most complete one out there. Any Elvis library should start with a biography. Some people don’t like it because it’s long and boring, but no other Elvis biography has the breadth and depth that Guralnick has. Presley biographies written by Jerry Hopkins in 1971 and Albert Goldman in 1981 aren’t worth reading because they have a slant on the life of the singer.
In Guralnick’s book, the author didn’t write from the point of view of a fan of Elvis, but from the point of view of history. Thus, his memoir is fair. Both good and bad things about Elvis can be seen by the person who reads the book.
Elvis Presley: A Life in Music: The Complete Recording Sessions by Ernst Jorgensen, 1998
In his life, Jorgensen has worked hard to keep Elvis’s music alive. In this book, he talks about all of Elvis Presley’s recording sessions, whether they were in a studio, on stage, or in an informal setting. In the past, some other authors have tried to do the same thing, but none of them had direct access to RCA files about Elvis’s recordings. Jorgensen is also a fan of Elvis, so his writing shows how excited he is about what he’s writing about.
It looks like the 240-page book Jorgensen wrote for Sony’s recent “The Complete Elvis Presley Masters” set is a new version of his 1998 study. You can buy the Sony set for $749, but if anyone wants to sell their copy, I’d be willing to pay a good price.
Elvis Aaron Presley: Revelations from the Memphis Mafia by Alanna Nash with Billy Smith, Marty Lacker, and Lamar Fike, 1995
Any library of Elvis should have at least one book written by someone who was part of Elvis’s entourage. Almost all of the people who worked for Elvis have written books. This is by far the best of the group. As a first step, the book talks about three different people in the “Memphis Mafia.” Their words are shown as direct quotes, with ghostwriter Nash limiting her own analysis to a few sentences.
Smith, Lacker, and Fike show their love for Elvis in the book’s 766 pages, but the trio is also honest about Elvis’s flaws. These people have a heartfelt story that is full of humor and sadness. They also have a lot of respect for the memory of their boss. Even Elvis fans who don’t want to read about their hero’s dark side will come away from this book with a smile on their face.
That’s Alright, Elvis by Scotty Moore as told to James Dickerson, 1997
People who played with Elvis on stage in the 1950s only Scotty Moore and DJ Fontana have written books. Bill Black, who was still angry at Elvis when he died in 1965, didn’t write down his memories before he died. Because none of the Jordanaires ever wrote a book about Elvis, it’s a real shame.
Scotty Moore, who was there from the start, has written a book about Elvis Presley’s rise that is very different from other books about the subject. It’s clear that Scotty gives Elvis credit, but he also talks about how he’s had a lot of problems with Elvis. Readers can start to understand why Elvis didn’t want to be in charge of his own career by seeing how he sometimes treated his backup musicians rudely. This isn’t something that Scotty was built to do, but it shows in the title and content of the book he wrote about Elvis.
Sergeant Presley: Our Untold Stories of Elvis’ Missing Years by Rex Mansfield, Elisabeth Mansfield, Zoe Terrill, and Marshall Terrill, 2003
If you want to learn about Elvis’s time in the army, this book should be your first choice. It was written in 1983 and was called “Elvis the Soldier.” Rex Mansfield joined the army in Memphis on the same day as Elvis and was his best friend for two years. Elisabeth Stefaniak, Presley’s girlfriend and personal secretary in Germany, was also close to him during those years when he was on the run from the law.
Following his discharge from the army, Rex and Elisabeth ran away from Elvis and got married. Rex and Elisabeth give a fair account of Elvis’s time in the army, even though they broke up with him quickly. Good and bad traits he learned during those important years of his life are both talked about. This is how it works:
Elvis Day by Day by Peter Guralnick and Ernst Jorgensen, 1999
As the title says, this book gives a straight, chronological account of Elvis’s life from the day he was born in 1935 until the day he died in 1977. Guralnick, the biographer, tells us about Elvis Presley’s comings and goings. Music historian Jorgensen adds information about recording sessions and concerts.
This book could be read from cover to cover like any other Elvis book. I have mostly used it as a reference book. It makes it easy to find things like what Elvis did on Christmas Day, or what he did on his birthday, and so on. As an Elvis fan and blogger, I’ve used this book more than any of the other books on this list.
Elvis: His Life From A to Z by Fred Worth and Steve Tamerius, 1988
Most Elvis fans at some point want to remember a small or unknown fact about Elvis. That’s when it comes in handy to have a book about Elvis on the shelf. A lot of these kinds of books have been written. This one is the most useful to me. In addition to a 220-section about the people, places, and things in Elvis’s life, the book talks about every song Elvis sang, every movie he made, every record he made, every show he played, and many other things.
The volume has a set of rules. As you would expect from a book of this size, there are some mistakes in it. A March 15, 1958, show in Memphis is on its list of Elvis’s concerts, but it didn’t take place. They also remind the reader to double-check information before passing it on as true. Also, because it was put together more than 20 years ago, the volume needs a lot of work.
Return of the King: Elvis Presley’s Great Comeback by Gillian G. Gaar, 2010
Elvis’s last 10 years are covered in this movie, but its main focus is on the revival of his career, starting with his “Comeback Special” on TV in 1968 and ending with him performing in Las Vegas the next year. This movie is called “Return of the King.” A smart move by the author is for him to stay out of the way and let the people who were involved in Elvis’s comeback tell their own stories. Among other things, this book is the best I’ve ever seen when it comes to the TV special from 1968.
Most of the other books on this list were written in the 1990s or before. My favorite book about Elvis is Return of the King, written in 2010.
Elvis: What Happened? by Red West, Sonny West, and Dave Hebler as told to Steve Dunleavy, 1977
if you want to go back in time and be there when Elvis Presley was going through the most emotional and confusing time of his life, read this book. You should also keep in mind that the book came out almost at the same time as Elvis died in 1977. When Elvis fans first learned about the dark side of his life, they also lost him.
Because all three authors of the Elvis bodyguard books were bitter and sour, it is fair to say that they were both. Before that, they were all fired. It’s still true that other members of Elvis Presley’s inner circle have said that most of the information in What Happened? is true. This book is important because it was important in the history of Elvis. It made Elvis’s private life public for the first time, which made other people want to write about the same things.