Elvis, The Early Years: A 2001 Fact Odyssey

By: David Neale
Source: Books In Print
June 6, 2000

Elvis, The Early Years: A 2001 Fact Odyssey
Elvis, The Early Years: A 2001 Fact Odyssey
From the same authors as 'Elvis: Unknown Stories Behind The Legend', this is the first in a series of seven books 'dedicated to providing Elvis fans throughout the world with little known facts about the life of Elvis Aron Presley...' Well, that's what it says on the back, anyway: I can't guarantee that all seven books will be published, but I certainly have doubts about the number of 'little known facts' that are included: many can be easily found in numerous other books. I also have my doubts as to the veracity of some facts and the quality of research and proof-reading.

The 2001 so-called facts listed in 'Elvis, The Early Years' range from information about the earliest known ancestors of Elvis, dating from 1595 in Denmark, up to a contest held in a magazine in November 1959. Many of the facts have a very obtuse link to Elvis, however: few fans will be interested in the births of Tom Parker's siblings, or even Scotty Moore's brother. And, whereas information pertaining to the birth of Sam Phillips is acceptable, do we really need to know when and where Priscilla's maternal uncle was born? Indeed, some facts are even more remotely connected with Elvis and I can't help feeling that many items were included simply to make up the magic 2001 total.

Each 'fact' is also extremely brief: no problem for a lot of the material, admittedly, but the more interesting items seem to cry out for additional information and would have been more suited to a narrative-style book, rather than this list of quickies. For example, I am very interested in the history of Sun Records, so I was intrigued to read that Sam Phillips filed an injunction against Duke Records in 1955 -- unfortunately no further information is provided, so the reader is left hanging in the air.

The book also demonstrates strange differences in research results. Why, for example, are we informed that Elvis' earliest known paternal ancestors were born in Denmark, whereas no mention is made of the country of origin of his earliest known maternal ancestors, even though they are named?

Even more unacceptable are the numerous errors, either through poor research, ignorance, or poor proof-reading. Fact 76 tells us that one Mania Doshia Pressley married 'at the tender age of 15' in August 1903, and yet the same entry states that she was born in July 1886, which would make her 17 years of age in 1903; fact 101 refers to 'Breda's Karrestraut,' but this should be 'Karrestraat'. Even some relatively recent information is incorrectly reported: Bob Neal was not Elvis' first manager, as is reported in fact 113 (indeed the caption to the photo on page 138 contradicts this 'fact', stating correctly that he was Elvis' second manager). An amusing example of poor proof-reading is displayed in fact 1353, stating 'The Elvis Presley stationary set sold for $1 in 1956.' Just as well that the set was 'stationary' (not moving), otherwise writing on the paper (stationery) would have been very difficult!

Despite the fact that many of the 'facts' have extremely tenuous links to Elvis, some are certainly interesting, such as those indicating a number of 'firsts': the first magazine to feature a photo of and article about Elvis; the first printed photos of Elvis singing, and so on. Others make excellent material for use in Elvis trivia quizzes: the license number of Elvis' pink and white 1954 Cadillac; the name of the policeman who gave Elvis his first speeding ticket in April 1954; and do you know what was the only Elvis sheet-music made during his time at Sun?

The book contains numerous illustrations, all of which are black and white. Most photos have been reproduced in countless other publications, though a couple seem new to me, notably one showing Elvis changing a tyre as part of a contest in 1952 (page 88) -- and in those clothes he clearly deserved the prize he won on that occasion! Not all the illustrations are reproduced very well, however, often showing Moire effects, or poor retouching work (see pages 204 and 254).

Although the 'facts' are listed in chronological order, a book of this type requires an index, which, unfortunately is absent here. Trying to locate items of information pertaining to a particular individual, place, or event is therefore very difficult.

The 2001 'facts' about Elvis are padded out with 147 additional facts relating to Fan Clubs, 1935, Tupelo and Memphis.

'Elvis, The Early Years' does not appeal to me, I have to say: I dislike the staccato, limited information entries and contradictions and errors make me doubt the veracity of the information. I prefer a narrative style book, but if you want to find a few trivia questions without too much work, this might be the book for you.

Author: Jim Curtin with Renata Ginter
Published in paperback by Celebrity Books ISBN 1-58029-106-6

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