The seven Elvis Files volumes are a very ambitious project by Erik Lorentzen that carefully document almost every single day of Elvis' life from 1953 to 1977, covering everything from what he wore on stage, to who he met, rare interviews, candid photos and newly discovered images.
Erik Lorentzen is also the author of the critical acclaimed book 'Elvis - The King Of Las Vegas' and there is no doubt that this stunning seven-volume series is truly unlike any Elvis book series that you have seen before. The fifth volume covers the two & half years of 1953–1956, is 594 pages, hard-backed and printed on high quality paper.
A large "coffee-table" book of 30 cm x 26cm with colour photos throughout, it is almost 1½ times bigger than Ernst Jorgensen/Peter Guralnick’s ‘Day by Day’ book yet covers only 2 1/2 years in Elvis’ life!
Now Updated - See end of this review for a size comparison, demonstrating the beautiful "coffee-table" size of this huge book. It weighs in over 3.5Kg!
By now most Elvis fans are aware that Erik Lorentzen’s ‘The Elvis Files’ are a stunning visual journey of Elvis’ life day by day. Featuring relevant newspaper reviews and articles about Elvis from the time, the books nicely match Ernst Jorgensen and Guralnick’s book as an invaluable and detailed biographical insight into Elvis’ life.
The previous published 'Elvis Files Vol.5' looked at Elvis’ return-to-splendour years of 1969 –1970 but now we go back to the very start and a detailed look at the early birth of Rock’n’Roll and Elvis’ greatest pivotal year of 1956.
This book is such a mammoth project that in some ways it’s hard do it justice in a small review. Nearly 600 pages long it focuses on the key early years 1953 to 1956.
This is the biggest Elvis Files volume so far, absolutely packed to the gills with stunning photographs, fascinating articles and all in the usual stylish layout and printed on quality glossy paper. It is a real stunner, an outstanding work by Erik Lorentzen and his contributors.
Although I have had this book for a week there is still no way I can have read and absorbed the whole thing, it is a massive project and one to pore over for weeks – It is most definitely not a photo-book to file away after one viewing.
With its huge glossy format and full-page glossy photos the book is an absolute delight to look through. Of course most keen fans will have seen a lot of the key photographs before but probably not in this quality and not in this size.
(Right:Elvis, May 29 1953 - full page photo)
With fewer photographs of Elvis available before his true fame and fortune took hold, the first section of this book has to be more diary driven rather than photograph and live appearance driven. However the book features some very fine articles to give an overview of Elvis’ life at the time.
The book starts with the John Saulovich essay ‘I Don’t Sound Like Nobody’: The Spectacular Debut of Elvis Presley’ which nicely sets the scene...
... When did it happen? When did the dream become a reality? When did a gentle but confident whisper from mother Gladys that he was really something special take hold'? When did an earnest and good-looking teenager named Elvis, from the poor side of Memphis by way of Tupelo, take that crucial first step towards becoming ELVIS PRESLEY?
Undoubtedly, history demands we turn to a cool spring evening at Memphis' L. C. Humes High School in 1953, the date being Thursday, April 9 and the event the school's "Annual Minstrel" talent show. The many impromptu guitar and piano jams given before school with classmate Warren Gregory now behind him, the senior with the sideburns is entered on the program as "Guitarist ... Elvis Prestley." Choosing to sing "Till I Waltz Again With You," a Billboard US Pop #1 ballad
earlier that year by Teresa Brewer, Elvis goes over very well. For Dwight Malone, a fellow performer that night, it is more than memorable.
"It was at the Humes Talent Show in April, 1953 that I realized that Elvis could really sing. I remember our barbershop quartet singing. I remember Gloria Trout, a gorgeous little blond dancer who was also a cheerleader. But mostly, I remember Elvis. There were no swivel hips. His props were a chair, a guitar and a loud costume. He put one foot on the chair, strummed the guitar and sang his heart out. To me, that was when rock and roll was born. The ovation was thunderous and long."
Another essay ‘1954 The Birth Of Rock ‘n’ Roll Music’ follows noting that in July 1954 Elvis walked into Sun studio to record ‘That’s All Right’ and history was made.
There have been plenty of other books about Elvis in this era including of course Ernst Jorgensen’s recent deluxe Tupelo book. (see review here). However Jorgensen’s book was more in diary form, extremely factual with a focus on newly discovered fan recollections and session notes, whereas The Elvis Files focuses more on newspaper articles, the photographs, interviews, as well as interesting overviews and opinions on this all-important period
There are plenty of fascinating articles including a very early recollection by photographer Jim Reid who took the early Sun era portrait of Elvis,
... My first meeting with Elvis was in 1954 when he had just recorded his first songs at Sun, which was just up the street from the Press-Scimitar. The lady that worked there, Marion Keisker, she brought him down one afternoon.
One of our reporters dropped this young man down at our studio and said, "Jim. I need you to take a picture. This is Elvis Presley - he's a singer." At the time, I was a 24 year-old ... I looked at this individual and I had to turn away from him! I'd never heard the name Elvis before, and he was dressed in the most nondescript clothes you could imagine. His head was down and he was quite shy, and he looked like he wanted to run! I thought Elvis Presley? This guy's a singer? I had to turn to the wall and mentally say "Sure he is!"
I sat him down and took two pictures -- that's all. I asked him, "Raise your chin up" and he raised it. I shot the picture and flipped the holder over... and again his chin was back down. He was a very shy individual -- very shy. I shot the second picture and then he went back over to the reporter's desk...and that was my first encounter with Elvis.
The early articles featured here also include...
- This Boy Has Something That Seems To Appeal to Everybody – (Overton Park) July 54
- The King Of Western Bop (1955 overview)
- Suddenly, Singing Elvis Presley Zooms Into Recording Stardom - February 1955.
- The William Speer Photo Session – July 1955
- Elvis Presley Back With New Popularity Honors - Nov 1955
- Memphis singer Presley signed by RCA Victor – Nov 1955
- The First Meeting & Publicity Photos – Dec 55
- Hill-billy Star to be Featured In Charity Show – Dec 55
Contributor and early Elvis expert John Saulovich also provides interesting articles about Elvis’ key Sun records releases.
SUN Records #217 --- - Magnolia Gardens, Texas, April 24, 1955
The list of contributors to the book is stunning, as well the impressive list of so many well-known Elvis photo collectors who have supplied images towards this fantastic book. (As listed below.)
The photographs here are printed in large format (and some with better or bigger scans than the same images in Ernst’s Tupelo book). The layout is stunning and eye-catching at the turn of each page.
As always with The Elvis Files, Erik Lorentzen also uses alternate photographs where possible – for instance from the William Speer July 1955 photo session below.
While as we all know there are very few early photographs of Elvis in colour, there are still some real surprises here and overall plenty of new images to my eye.
And the quality of some photos is astounding, for instance I have never seen this photograph of Elvis and his dog at Lamar Avenue, July 1955 in such amazing quality before. I believe this would have come from Brian Peterson’s personal collection. (see below right)
Each month starts with a list of Elvis’ performances dates and confirmed songs from each set list. Once again very stylishly set out, easy to read and follow.
The key year that would change everything has to be 1956 - and it is this year that is the crucial key feature of this book - with over 420 packed pages of photographs, articles, interviews and stunning images all such great quality. It was an amazing year for not only Elvis but also popular culture and I have never seen it captured so well.
What a great fabulous double page spread to start with...
- as the book notes "The Great Year of
1956: Concerts, Television & Hollywood."
To be honest one of the real positives about this book is the way Erik Lorentzen has once again steered away from well-known images to provide alternate shots. It is actually a positive that there are so few Wertheimer images used since we have seen them all so many times before. It is the candid photographs and images of Elvis on stage that marvellously portray something that was so exciting and exuberant and that was about to so surprise Middle-America and then spread shock-waves across the world.
Elvis’ joy and happiness earlier on is palpable but is soon to be taken over by a frequent tiredness in his eyes.
There are so many great articles here from 1956 that this is just a list of a few
- Our Gals Go Ga-Ga Over Elvis – Feb 1956
- Look Out Girls - The Cat Is Here – Feb 1956
- Mae Boren Axton, The Lady Behind Heartbreak Hotel
... Mae Boren Axton who wrote the lyrics to "Heartbreak Hotel" recalls Elvis Presley as a long-haired, hungry kid in a beat-up car. She felt so bad that Elvis and his friends were working the date for $50 that she paid for their supper and hotel bill the first night. "He said he hoped he would make enough money someday to bring his parents down to see Florida," she recalled. Presley did not even have top billing for the show, she said, but when she heard girls yelling and screaming, she thought he was going to be a success. And when she found him hanging terrified from a shower-head backstage, with 50 excited fans ripping his coat, tie, shoes and socks apart, she was certain.
Through her efforts, she united Elvis and Colonel Parker. Mrs. Axton - who has since penned more than 100 songs that have made their way into records - said the Colonel was "counting box-office money when I heard all these people screaming. I went up to see what it was all about," she said of the Jacksonville, Florida, engagement. "It was Elvis Presley. By the time we got to Daytona, the Colonel wanted him."
- Elvis Presley Show: Performer Draws Huge Audience - March 1956
- Rock ‘N’ Roll Boy Presley Just Hopes Craze Will Last - April 1956
... Elvis Presley, a rock 'n' roller who looks a little like Marlon Brando and sings like Johnny Ray with the St. Vitus dance, was signed today to a long-term movie contract. Presley a 21-year-old Memphis blues singer with long sideburns and black denim trousers, is the current swooner among bobby-soxers. Hal Wallis Productions had screen-tested Presley a few weeks ago after his RCA recording of "Heartbreak Hotel" soared near the million copy mark. However, the producer didn't sign Presley until he made three appearances in San Diego last week. The first was on the Milton Berle television show from the flight deck of the Navy carrier USS Hancock. The next two were in the San Diego arena where turn-away audiences of 5,000, mostly teenaged girls, paid $15, gross to hear him sing eight songs. Presley sings with sensual movements not unlike those of a burlesque queen. The effect on bobby-soxers is such that the arena manager had to call out police and platoon of shore patrol to help quell the mob who pursued Presley to a barricaded dressing room. He also has been the subject of two acid take-offs by television comics Steve Allen and Sid Caesar. This hasn't hurt his jet-propelled climb to fame. Elvis plays a savage guitar as part of his act and averages about three broken strings a performance.
Before he took up the 'gee-tar', he was a $35-a- week truck driver in Memphis. His climb has been so rapid that only last week a Midwestern newspaper called Paramount Studios to check a report that Presley had died. It seems that girls in the local high school were so upset by the rumor that they were not going to classes. This week, Elvis Presley is Paramount's newest contractee. Comments Elvis: "I'm afraid to wake up each morning. I can't believe all this has happened to me....I just hope it lasts."
- Rage Over Elvis Presley Is A Bit Sickening - April 1956
- Elvis Gives Out With Crazy Cool Interview - April 1956
- Teenage Bedlam Greets Stomping Elvis Presley - May 1956
- Presley Leaves You In A Blue Suede Funk - June 1956
- Teenagers Screech As Rock ‘N’ Roll Presley Writhes - June 1956
- Sideburned Dreamboat Or Red-Blooded American Youth? - July 1956
- They Rock ‘N’ Riot For Elvis - August 1956
- Broom-Sweeping Elvis, A Regular Guy - August 1956
- Shouting, Pushing Mass Of Youngsters Stampedes Elvis Presley Show - August 1956
As you can see the list of stories about Elvis in the media at the time was non-stop and it’s great to read this disparate stories and views as Elvis was observed as both devil or angel.
Of course The Dorsey, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan TV shows are all featured - plus of course the famous Tupelo fairgrounds show.
Plenty of the articles come from local newspapers such as Bob Johnson’s articles from the Memphis Press Scimitar but there are also lots of articles written specifically for the book. Alan Hanson provides some interesting views while Mike Eder contributes a very nice article looking at ‘Love Me Tender’ Elvis’ first Hollywood movie.
Keith Flynn also provides great input on Elvis' recording, touring dates and confirmed songs that Elvis performed.
Apart from reading even more about the hysteria and outrage Elvis created this over this two-year period the real highlight for me is the candid photos capturing Elvis in unguarded moments.
Elvis’ life must have been the wildest ride and it is unbelievable how he could cope with the adulation thrust upon him. There are a large number of photographs where you can look into his eyes and try to guess the intense emotions he must have been going through.
There are also plenty of very interesting Elvis’ interviews featured including those with Hy Gardener, Charlie Walker KMAC April 56, Lindy Shannon WKBH Lacrosse May 1956, Ray Green Little Rock auditorium May 56, Lew Irwin KPOL Los Angeles June 56, Ray Pillow WBOY Tampa Florida August 1956, Bob Hoffer St Petersburg, August 1956, Jack Christal Tupelo Sept 1956 and more...
Some of the interviews are marvellous for catching Elvis in unguarded moments for instance in the 'Elvis Gives Out With Crazy Cool Interview'…
Elvis - "What do you want to know about me, honey?"
- Have you any idea at all about just what it was that started the girls going crazy over you?
Elvis - "No, I don't. I guess it's just something God gave me. I believe that, you know. Know what I mean, honey? And I am grateful. Only I'm afraid. I'm afraid I'll go out like a light, just like I came on. Know what I mean, honey?"
Presley has a way with that "honey" business. When he talks, he looks straight ahead or sort of dreamy like in no direction at all. Then he turns with that "know what I mean, honey?" His face is close, real close, right in your face almost.
- I hear you walk in your sleep.
Elvis - "Well, I have nightmares. "
- What kind?
Elvis - "I dream I'm about to fight somebody or about to be in a car wreck or that I'm breaking things. Know what I mean, honey?" (I don't have any idea what he means.)
- Where are you from?
Elvis - "From Memphis, Tennessee."
- Oh, yes that's where all the hillbilly singers come from, isn't it?
Elvis - "Maybe so, but I'm no hillbilly singer."
Well, have you typed yourself.. I mean your type of singing?
Elvis - "No, I don't dare. Cause I'm scared, know what I mean, honey? Real scared."
Elvis - "I don't know . . . I don't know. Know what I mean, honey?"
At this point, I thanked him for his time and started to make a beeline for the door. He grabbed my hand, sat there looking sleepy-eyed into my face, and fanned his long lashes while he said: "Write me up good, will you honey?"
The book is packed with stunning images of Elvis performing live as well as Elvis and his adoring fans.
The book ends with the classic Million Dollar Quartet session in December, the final Hayride show and Christmas with his family at Audubon Drive, things will never be the same again.
The very fact that Las Vegas show-girl Dottie Harmony is opening presents next to Vernon and Gladys speaks volumes about how much Elvis’ life had changed in only two and half years from the start of this very book.
I only wish I could scan every single page of this book just to demonstrate what an outstanding achievement it is – Everyone that is a fan of early Elvis needs to get to see.
That so many Elvis specialists are willing to contribute to these Elvis Files books only goes to show what a great product is being produced and that everyone wants to help Erik Lorentzen produce the best of the series of books about Elvis that can be achieved.
The fact that John Saulovich (DrJohnCarpenter of the FECC forum) is willing to work on this book along side other Elvis experts that he has previously shown notable distain for (Joe Pirzada, Keith Flynn, Anthony Stuchbury) only goes to show the power and inspiration of Erik Lorentzen as a publisher in gathering true Elvis experts from all areas as his contributors.
A stunning full-page shot from the Milton Berle Show, June 1956
Of course with a book of this size there are inevitably going to be some minor proof reading issues that keen eyes can spot. Sometimes the date is missed, for some reason Bill Black is not listed as a musician on Elvis’ first RCA recording session - and I was amused to see Ernst Jorgensen named as "Ernest" (damn spell-checkers!) but these are all seem very minor when compared to the grandeur of the book as a whole.
Overall Verdict: There is an incredible impact to this book that can shock even the most blasé of Elvis fans who think they have seen it all before. The amazing amount of sensational images, interviews and informative articles gathered together within its 600 pages is stupefying. My friends could not believe that only two and a half years of Elvis' life were gathered together in such a huge book - and reading through it you can really feel how much the musical world changed over this short period and how important Elvis was to the teenage movement.
Of all the books I have previously purchased about Elvis in 1956 none of them demonstrate the excitement and dynamic life of Elvis as well as this superb volume.
Looking back at my Elvis Files Vol.5 1969-70 review, my opinion is strangely similar for this book except that this was the very start of Elvis' career.. "Sensational life-affirming music, outstanding performances and a new happiness shown by Elvis’ interaction with his fans – all captured in over 1,500 stunning photos."
As Elvis' school pal said of 1953, "Elvis' props were a chair, a guitar and a loud costume. He put one foot on the chair, strummed the guitar and sang his heart out. To me, that was when rock and roll was born."
Fans of Elvis in the 1950s have to track this book down. A stunner, I am so glad I started collecting this Elvis Files series from the very start.
Please note - apologies, any patterning on photos featured above is due to my low-res scans from my book - these have not been supplied by the publisher.
Review by Piers Beagley.
-Copyright EIN May 2013
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Several fans have contacted EIN regarding the price of these books.
Yes, they are more costly than the average photo book but the size and production values still make them great value-for-money, they are a reference book you will be regularly going back to.
The size and weight of them however means postage has to be high.
EIN is not selling them directly but the cost is around US$100, GB£65 or EU75 plus postage.
CLICK HERE to buy this book directly from ‘The Elvis Files’
or try a local Elvis dealer to see if the total PLUS postage works out cheaper.
Below, a regular CD shown against the book to give a size comparison of the stunning presentation and the wonderful and rare photographs - Are these photos of Elvis big enough for you ?!?!
Elvis Files Vol 1 Acknowledgments
This volume includes photographs by: 20th Century Fox Studios, Alamy Images, Getty Images, Memphis Commercial Appeal, Marvin Israel, Alfred Wertheimer, Lew Allen, Fotorama,-Norway, Memphis Press-Scimitar, Filmjournalen-Norway, Jay B. Leviton, Ed Braslaff, Frank Powolny -Twentieth's Portraits Gallery, David B. Hecht, William Speer, Opal Walker, James Kingsley, Durica Piechota, William "PoPsie" Randolph, Charles Trainor of the Miami News, Terry Wood, Photoplay Magazine & Time Magazine.
This volume features photographs from the collections of: Erik Lorentzen, Mike Florysiak, Patrick Janssen, Elaine Christan, Chris Giles, Christi Dragomir, Louis Van Ettinger, Ray Bowman, Anthony King, Pal Granlund, Joseph Pirazada, Steve Barile, Erik Viervoll & Anthony Stuchbury,
Special thanks to these loyal and true Elvis fans who helped me out with this book:
John Saulovich, Paul Richardson, Gordon Minto, Christi Dragomir & Louis Van Ettinger.
Brian Petersen, "The Atomic Powered Singer"
Lee Cotton, "Did Elvis Sing In Your Hometown"
James Roy, www.scottymoore.net
John Klompenhouwer, www.706unionavenue.nl
Joseph Pirazada, Memphis Recording Service
Alfred Wertheimer, "Elvis '56 - In The Beginning" & "Elvis At 21"
Alan Hanson, www.elvis-history-blog.com
Keith Flynn, www.keithflynn.com
Francesc Lopez, www.elvisconcerts.com
Ernst Jorgensen, "A Life In Music:The Complete Recording Sessions"
The Seven-Volume series and proposed publishing dates are:
The Elvis Files Vol. 2: 1957-1959, (Nov 2010)
The Elvis Files Vol. 3: 1960-1964, (April 2010)
The Elvis Files Vol. 4: 1965-1968, (August 2011)
The Elvis Files Vol. 5: 1969-1970, (July 2012)
The Elvis Files Vol. 1: 1953-1956, (April 2013)
The Elvis Files Vol. 6: 1971-1973, (August 2013)
The Elvis Files Vol. 7: 1974-1977, (Dec 2013)
The first book The Elvis Files Vol. 3 1960 to 1964 was launched in April 2010.
Size: 25 (10") x 30 (12") Glossy & Hard cover....3 kilos
The Elvis Files – a Collectors Dream
Publisher: KJ Consulting, Oslo
Click here for more information
- Erik Lorentzen
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Go here for EIN's 'The Elvis Files Vol. 2' 1957 - 1959 review with lots of example pages