Imagine yourself in the attic at Graceland. There within bulging trunks and boxes lie the masses of photos, letters, telegrams, legal documents, ticket stubs, and receipts that mark Elvis Presley's uneven passage through life. Imagine further that assiduous elves have laid out all this fascinating material in chronological order for you to savor. Well, that's pretty much what this book offers.
Peter Guralnick knows more about Presley than Boswell ever suspected about Johnson. He has illuminated the King in numerous articles and the minutely detailed two-volume biography, Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love. Guralnick's co-author, also an Elvis scholar, has co-produced boxed sets of the singer's music and annotated his recording sessions.
Here the two researchers go far beyond the information they amassed personally for their own works to plumb the Graceland archives, which now contain, among other treasures, thirty-five tons of records and memorabilia from the estate of Presley's longtime manager, Colonel Tom Parker. Guralnick credits Parker and Presley's father Vernon with holding onto material they knew would eventually have great historical interest.
Elvis Day by Day stretches from April 12, 1912, the day Presley's mother was born, to October 3, 1977, when a CBS-TV special aired Presley concerts filmed earlier that year. It is, as Guralnick says, a kind of biographical exoskeleton. Besides citing Presley's routine daily activities, the book also lists the dates and places of his live performances and recordings, as well as the release dates of his records. Every known woman Elvis dated a prodigious list to be sure is dutifully noted here.
But the most appealing feature of the book at least to those who are not scholars or zealots is its wealth of photos. There are more than 300 of them, many published for the first time. Among them are pictures of Elvis's early grade cards, a receipt for his gaudy TCB pendants, bills for jewelry and costumes, numerous candid shots from family and friends, reproductions of movie posters, and a vast array of publicity photos. They offer private glimpses of a man who, for most of his life, had no privacy.
Edward Morris is a Nashville-based writer and journalist.