Elvis In Texas - Book Review

By: David Neale
Source: Books In Print
December 6, 2003

Elvis in Texas
Elvis in Texas
In the last few years we have been almost overwhelmed with Elvis photo-books, almost all of them dealing with his touring period during the 1970s. I have to admit that these are not my favourite Elvis books and after a while I find them repetitious -- even if not exactly the same shots are used, there is inevitably a similarity. Fine if you're into jumpsuits, but I'm not!

'Elvis in Texas' is also largely a photo book. It also deals with a period of touring in Elvis' career. However, instead of the 1970s, it transports us back to the 1950s, concentrating on the period from late 1954 to about the end of 1956.

Although only a paperback with glue binding, the cover of 'Elvis in Texas' shows a magnificent action shot of Elvis from this early period. The quality of this illustration is a reflection of the quality of the content of the book. Indeed, it is a real shame that 'Elvis in Texas' is not available in a well-bound hardback version, for it is a book that will be paged through again and again, so it could probably do with the added strength that a more robust edition would afford.

The book counts 232 pages, including a list of all concerts Elvis played in Texas and an index. But the bulk of the book is an excellent amalgam of text and photographs. More than 150 photographs are reproduced in black-and-white and for once the claim that many are previously unpublished is correct -- at least, many of the photos are completely new to me and as a great number seem to come from personal archives, I imagine that very few people have seen them before. Certainly I would have liked to have seen at least some of these photos reproduced on better paper, but given the very democratic price of 'Elvis in Texas', that is not a big issue. Not all of the photographs are of Elvis, but this is also not a drawback, for the others show the venues where he performed almost fifty years ago and some of the performers he appeared with, including Charlene (aka Charline) Arthur, and it's not every day you get to see pictures of her!

The text follows Elvis from his very first appearances in Texas, playing at poorly attended gigs, in high-school gyms, and car dealerships, right through to huge concerts before thousands of screaming fans. Anecdotes are told about events surrounding some of these concerts, which make for lively reading, even if the language used is sometimes very Texas (or what I imagine to be very Texas!), making it difficult now and then to understand the exact meaning -- foreign readers might have a few problems here! Nevertheless, the tales are often plenty of fun and sometimes highly enlightening: we get to know the very first Elvis impersonator, a lad who seems to have become quite a regular performer at early Elvis gigs (filling in for Elvis when he was late!) and local celebrity, as well as a friend of Elvis; we learn about some of Elvis' exploits with local girls and his frequent problems with his cars. We progress from Bob Neal's less than aggressive management style to Tom Parker's belligerence, with Elvis becoming more and more exhausted as the series of one-night stands seems to be never-ending.

Towards the end of the book, there are cameos of Kay Wheeler, one of the earliest fan club organisers and later the author of 'Growing Up With The Memphis Flash', and Sherry Davis, one of the singers from the later shows. We also meet the Fadal family in Waco and take a brief look at Elvis' early months in the armed forces.

But by far the greater part of 'Elvis in Texas' deals with Elvis' early touring and performances throughout Texas. Text and photos are filled out with contemporary newspaper reports and the whole makes for highly enjoyable reading, excellent illustrations and a book you really can't afford to be without.

Buy Elvis in Texas

Elvis in Texas
Author: Lori Torrance with Stanley Oberst


David Neale

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