Book packed with Elvis memorabilia, history
Elvis Presley Memphis
By Mark P. Bernardo
(Roaring Forties Press 2012) trade paperback, 147 pages, illustrated and notes, $14.95 cover price
By Hubert O’Hearn
This, the latest in the delightful series of MusicPlace series of travel guides blended with biography, fits perfectly well with Roaring Forties Press’ well-proven format.
The Elvis-loving tourist will find a marked map co-ordinated with the text. You too can see where Elvis went to school! Worked as a movie usher! Recorded Hound Dog! Bought his clothes! Had his first backseat make-out session!
Well, no, not the last one actually, although one supposes you could make it up and who would be the wiser?
Instead one is the wiser for much of the information contained in Mark Bernardo’s cleanly written history. I have been a Blues writer for 12 years and I did not know that W.C. Handy’s seminal Memphis Blues was a re-working of a mayoralty campaign song he wrote for one “Boss” Crump. Shady politics leading to vibrant musical forms —who would have guessed?
Besides the cultural backdrop of Memphis, this slim book does an excellent job of handling certain issues that might otherwise defeat it. Elvis had a taste in decorating that more than one person has likened to a bordello. Here is how Bernardo handles the description of a room at Graceland: “The billiards room instigates sensory overload; every inch of the walls and ceiling is covered with matching pleated fabric, the same as what is covering the couches. (A total of four hundred yards of fabric was used.)” Ick! Yet note that clever phrase, “sensory overload.” Well done, sir! One can either be driven to ecstasy or despair; the choice is the tourist’s.
This book contains all the Elvis stories the casual or curious would care to read. A sharp, smart guide.
(Hubert O’Hearn is a Thunder Bay based reviewer. A complete archive of his work can be found at bythebookreviews.blogspot.com)