Forty years ago, you were all shook up. The death of The King was unexpected and chances are you remember exactly where you were when you heard the news he was gone. It was devastating and you still miss Elvis Presley. In “Blue Suede Shoes: The Culture of Elvis” by Thom Gilbert, you’ll read about others who miss him, too.

Presley, Gilbert writes in his introduction, “was nothing like what you heard about him.” Presley’s career, for example, almost didn’t happen. According to one story here, Presley didn’t initially want his first guitar. He wanted a rifle but his mother talked him out of it.

Early in his career, Presley was publicly shy and self-conscious, sometimes questioning his purpose in life. Live mics made him tongue-tied and nervous. Still, he loved a good time, and he had more than his share of girlfriends — including one who wanted to marry him and one who definitely did not.

Unfailingly polite, Presley was respectful of his elders (even two-years-older-elders), and was complimentary to fellow musicians and kind to fans. He loved to read the Bible, and he carried the New Testament with him in a box, which also held jewelry he impulsively bought as gifts.

“Sweet,” in fact, is a word used often in this book. Never taking on airs, he was “plain as a shoe” but fame had its price, even so. Friends had to disguise Presley so he could enjoy everyday pleasures like restaurants and nightclubs.

The book comes in a simulation blue suede cover with gold fringe on it. It’s gaudy, like an old Las Vegas showgirl costume.

And what’s between those blue faux-suede-fabric covers? Gilbert spoke with musicians who worked with Presley, as well as co-stars, body guards, love interests and others. And will find pages packed with photos of things Elvis owned, gave away, lived in, wore, treasured, and used throughout his career.

Despite the uniqueness and abundance of memories here, it cannot be said that this is a wide-arcing book.

That’s okay; it has the feel of a lush secret that’s whispered from the dressing room of a smoky casino. Who could resist?

This book might be pricey, but you’ll know “Blue Suede Shoes” is worth it once you take a quick peek inside. If you’re a die-hard Elvis fan, you can’t help falling in love with this book.


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