"You know, in my hometown of Hope, Arkansas, the three sacred heroes were Jesus, Elvis, and FDR, not necessarily in that order." - Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
Hundreds of books have been written about the life of Elvis Presley. Most are brief biographical works where the author mentions the highlights of Elvis's career; the Sun Record recording sessions, his military and movie career, his return to live performances and his unexpected death. And as so often is the case, many authors simply recount the same stories over and over, adding photographs that we've all come to recognize. And so why write another book about Elvis Presley?
Because "Elvis in Arkansas" is not just another Elvis book.
When he set out to write "Elvis in Arkansas," author Joe Walker chose to focus on the historical Elvis and how those early times in Arkansas impacted his career.
During those earliest days, as Elvis' father, Vernon Presley, would recall, the state played an important role in his son's early career: "[Elvis] started out in '55 playing locally, you know, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi." To many, Elvis Presley came out of nowhere, emerging that hot July night at Sun Records, recording "That's All Right." And even there, Arkansas had an impact, with a small radio station in northeast Arkansas being one of the very first ever to play an Elvis Presley record.
And if Memphis, Tennessee was the cornerstone of Elvis Presley's career, then Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas were the bricks that completed the foundation of Rock ‘n Roll. And not just for Elvis. Sun Record artists Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins and Charlie Rich just to name a few all had their start in the juke joints and high school gymnasiums across the Ark-La-Tex.
"Elvis in Arkansas" offers a fresh perspective on those early days when Elvis and his bandmates, Scotty Moore and Bill Black first ventured west out of Memphis with the trio criss-crossing the Ark-La-Tex, performing in hundreds of shows across Arkansas, Louisiana and Texas. And when they weren't playing a show in Arkansas, they were driving back and forth across the state weekly, sometimes eating at a local diner, or visiting friends they had made along the way.
You'll read the stories from those who were there, not realizing they were witnessing the birth of Rock 'n Roll. For them, they were witnessing something, they just weren't sure what.
And of course there were occasions when life turned sour - such as when his very first Cadillac - the original pink Cadillac - burned alongside an Arkansas highway or driving for hours to play an Arkansas show only to find there were only twelve people in the audience. Elvis' fear of flying came about from his aircraft nearly crashing in the mountains over western Arkansas. And then the moment, while enjoying hit records, that an Arkansas judge refused to accept his check for a car accident because he had never heard of Elvis Presley.
in 1958, Elvis became the most famous soldier in the U.S. Army, being sworn in at an Arkansas military post. During the 1960's, still wary of flying, Elvis criss-crossed Arkansas during trips to the west coast to film a string of movies, often stoping over to eat a meal, fuel up or stay overnight at an area motel.
In the 1970's, he returned to Arkansas, now holding the crown of Rock 'n Roll, performing before thousands of fans in sold out arenas. And in a poignant visit to the state, just months before his untimely death, Elvis, returned to his roots, attending a funeral for a loved one in a small country church in the Ozark mountains.
These are stories you'll only read in "Elvis in Arkansas."
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