Elvis Presley: Music Legend, Movie Star, The King

Author: Connie Plantz

Publisher: Enslow Publishers, Inc.

ISBN: 0-7660-2103-3 (Hardback, 128 pp.)


Most Elvis books nowadays are aimed at the adult fan. Consider Guralnick's two-volume mega-biography "Careless Love" and "Last Train To Memphis," or Mundy's more recent "Elvis Fashion" and Keogh's "Elvis Presley: The Man, The Life, The Legend." Hardly books for the sub-teenager.

Be honest, we early Elvis fans are getting a bit long in the tooth. I was nine when I first got to know Elvis back in Wales in 1958 and by that time, many older people were already fans. It is no surprise, then, that there are a lot of grandparents among Elvis fans. It is therefore appropriate that "Elvis Presley: Music Legend, Movie Star, The King" be aimed at a much younger generation, a cunning commercial move, perhaps, aimed both at schools and those grandparents who need a suitable Elvis present for their progeny.

Part of the "People To Know" series of books, "Elvis Presley: Music Legend, Movie Star, The King" attempts to précis Elvis's life story in a way suitable for juvenile readers. Indeed, the English (American English) is very simple: sentences are short and easy to read, and the biography is cut back to the bare bones in order to fit it into 113 pages of fairly large print, which also include illustrations. The remainder of the book is made up of a chronology, a discography and filmography (the discography lists just 24 singles and 16 albums, while the supposedly complete filmography lists 26 films, omitting such titles as "King Creole," "Flaming Star" and "That's The Way It Is"), chapter notes (indicating sources), an extremely brief bibliography (just 6 titles) and list of Web addresses (all three of them!), and a good index.

The biography is sympathetically written. The reader is made to understand the awkward situation that Elvis found himself in, being a white man singing what sounded like black music in the still segregated Southern states of the USA. His contribution in helping to break down this ridiculous situation and in promoting youth culture is well presented. In the same way, the 1960s and 1970s, with their associated problems and successes are fairly treated, though much is necessarily compacted or simply passed over. Don't expect any details -- this is a fast-paced distillation, after all.

Unfortunately, research seems to have been lax. It is stated that Lauderdale Courts is in disrepair, a strange lapse, given that the announcement to refurbish the area was announced in 2002 and that the work has now been completed. Another example is the use of "Standly" instead of Stanley as the surname of Vernon's second wife and Elvis's step-brothers, and even Elvis's age is incorrectly reported as being 26 in 1962. "If I Can Dream" was Elvis's first million-selling record in nine years? Hardly! And surely it doesn't take a lot of research to learn that it was Ginger Alden, rather than Ginger Allen, or that even Elvis, although he sold many records during his lifetime, did not reach the two billion mark! Sadly, there are far too many basic errors of this kind for a factual book aimed at the youth.

What a pity more care was not taken in the preparation of "Elvis Presley: Music Legend, Movie Star, The King," for the concept is a good one -- a simple biography, offering a good introduction to Elvis for inquisitive youngsters. If only the execution were as good as the idea!


David Neale

copyright August 2004

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