Book Review - Raised On Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!

By: David Neale
Source: Books In Print
December 24, 2004

Raised On Elvis - A Look Back At The Good Times
Raised On Elvis - A Look Back At The Good Times
Sandi Haynes Pichon is an Elvis fan of the very first muster. When she was living in Memphis as a young girl, she persuaded her mother to drive her over to Audubon Drive, where she was presented with a glass of lemonade by Gladys Presley. When Sandi was testing the seat of Elvis' motorbike, she felt a couple of arms around her and turned to see Elvis sitting behind her. Quite an experience for a young girl and one that Sandi has carried with her for the rest of her life.

Sandi describes the event in her book, 'Raised On Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!' but the book is less concerned with the Elvis of the 1950s and 1960s, as with the Elvis of the 1970s. As with most Elvis fans, Sandi's personal life affected her following of Elvis during the earlier decades, but, after attending an Elvis concert in 1972, Sandi embarked on a road that bordered on hero-worship. Often teaming up with a number of other female fans, she pursued Elvis from venue to venue, apparently at every conceivable opportunity. She became such a feature of the concerts that she even became a sort of member of the outer circle of the Elvis entourage, recognised by the more prominent members (and by Elvis himself) and helped by them when necessary, to obtain concert tickets and good seats.

Sandi provides plenty of details about the many concerts she attended and female readers are bound to enjoy her details of the numerous kisses she received from Elvis. She further documents Elvis' declining health, increase in weight and change of personality, especially during the 1975 concerts when among other things, he insulted Kathy Westmoreland and the Sweet Inspirations, leading them to walk off the stage. Concert outfit fans will revel in Sandi's descriptions of the jumpsuits and other garb that Elvis sported, making it clear that Elvis' wardrobe was by no means limited to jumpsuits, though quite why she seems so fond of the Gypsy suits, describing them as, 'among the very best designs he ever wore', is beyond me!

This really is a cavalcade of concert information, though Sandi also describes more personal encounters with Elvis, such as the time she was allowed into the Stax recording studios to witness him in action and the much sadder occasion when she was allowed to view Elvis' body at Graceland. She also offers her opinions on numerous aspects of Elvis' life and career, including a very positive assessment of the role played by Tom Parker, with which, I'm sure, many will disagree.

The book is nicely produced and profusely illustrated. Many books carry the enticement of 'previously unpublished photos', but this one lives up to this claim and fans will welcome the many photos of Elvis performing in the 1970s, together with a few candid shots from 'Loving You.' The photos are not of the highest quality, but I suspect this is because they have been made from scans of old colour photographs, so even though they are perhaps somewhat faded, they remain a refreshing change from the usual and many fans will appreciate them.

Sandi's writing style can probably be best described as 'down-home' -- she tells her story with enthusiasm and sympathy. However, her tale is somewhat marred by some setting lapses, especially the incorrect use of en-dashes instead of em-dashes, and by some strange mis-spellings and incorrect song titles -- Jordinaires and Fairytales, for example, though my favourite must be 'dire straights', a delightful homonym! Some rather more careful editing could have improved this aspect of the book greatly.

All in all, 'Raised On Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!' is a very good effort by a clearly dedicated fan. It certainly makes a refreshing change from the seemingly never-ending variations on the biography. If enthusiasm is the measuring-stick, then Sandi deserves a ten out of ten for her book. I have to be honest and say that I did not look forward to reading 'Raised On Elvis! Elvis! Elvis!' but I am not at all sorry that I did so and I'm sure that you will not be sorry, either.

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