Book Review

Elvis on Television 1956-60

Gordon Minto & Joseph Pirzada

Boxcar Enterprises, EC, 2016, Hardcover (with slipcase), 402 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-0957156920

reviewed by Nigel Patterson (July 2016)

View GIF video clip of Elvis on Television 1956-60


While sales of Elvis recorded material wanes, a flourishing and I suspect quite lucrative market, is being satisfied through the release of stylish, high quality photo-journals. At the centre of this industry are Sony's FTD label, Erik Lorentzen's Elvis Files productions, Pal Granlund's Flaming Star organisation and Joseph Pirzada's MRS and Boxcar Enterprises, the latter of which has just released its latest deluxe coffee table production: Elvis on Television 1956-60.

The importance of television in the breaking of Elvis Presley nationally and internationally is an issue sometimes overlooked or undervalued. When Elvis first appeared on television it was a medium establishing its position as the dominant entertainment and news form, not only in America but also globally. Appropriately, the medium and the artist complemented each other to enhance their respective standing.

Arguably, without television exposure Elvis would likely remained a largely regional music identity rather than becoming the music’s world’s biggest entertainment star, conquering radio, TV, film and concert performing.

The literary sub-canon of Elvis' television appearances is a small but surprisingly rich one. From Gillian Gaar's excellent Comeback Special: Return of the King Elvis Presley's Great Comeback and Allen Wiener's thought provoking Channeling Elvis How Television Made Elvis Presley, to obscure titles such as Elvis: The T.V. Years by Britain's Ian Bailye and Marc Weingarten's wonderful omnibus release, Station to Station The History of Rock ‘n’ Roll on Television, there is plenty to ponder and visually delight.

So how does Elvis on Television 1956-60 compare to these earlier releases?

Quite simply, the importance of television in “breaking” Elvis is most stylishly presented and detailed, both visually and narratively, in Boxcar's latest offering.

As noted the publicity material, the release goes behind the scenes of each of Elvis' TV appearances documenting his arrival, the rehearsals and the shows themselves. 

Elvis On Television 1956-60 impacts the reader on several levels – it not only informs, but it entertains and also delights as a potent narrative-visual record of Elvis’ early television appearances, highlighting their importance in propelling his career beyond only a regional footprint. While lacking the analytical gravitas of Allen Wiener’s Channeling Elvis (an academically influenced examination of Elvis on TV), Gordon Minto (previously co-author with Ger Rijff of 60 Million TV Viewers Can't Be Wrong - a look at Elvis on The Ed Sullivan Show) vividly brings to life the potent, animalistic experience of the young (generally) unbridled Elvis Presley live on ‘50s TV in vivid, and reader pleasing, detail. Elvis on Television is primed to satisfy both the hardcore and casual fan.



The Narrative

Minto's narrative is expressive, free flowing and illuminating, taking the reader on a wondrous journey of discovery as the young King of Rock 'n' Roll conquers television and in so doing marks his place in musical and cultural history.

The narrative journey enhances our understanding, for example, including surrounding contextual information on Elvis' rise to superstardom:

Those fans fortunate enough to witness his live concerts in Florida during August 1956 saw the unexpurgated Elvis perform on stage. The gigs were wild, by all accounts so wild, in fact, that during his first Jacksonville gig on August 10, Juvenile Court Judge Marion Gooding (who was watching the show with some of the po faced members of his committee, all reportedly almost apoplectic at his antics on stage) authorised warrants for Elvis' arrest if he didn't tone down his subsequent performances while in town.

At one moment the text is evocatively descriptive:

Once again, it was during the instrumental break that he evoked the wildest crowd reaction as he gyrated and swirled his legs, pausing to say something to Bill Black as he did so. As Elvis closed the song, the applause was rapturous.

and in the next moment the text is insightfully analytical of the performer's impact:

Then Elvis was off. Each show had brought increased success and recognition, effectively ensuring that nothing would ever be the same again. America at large had just witnessed the beginings of a true phenomenon.

On Elvis winning over the conservative and dour Ed Sullivan, Minto comments:

But Ed was nobody's fool. He would have weighed what the boy said and what he did, and gradually formulated his own views.

And in relation to one of Elvis’ appearances on the Dorsey Brothers Stage Shows, Minto poignantly records an episode reflecting the human side of Elvis:

Apparently, Elvis chose not – some say refused – to perform ‘Blue Suede Shoes’ out of respect for Carl Perkins who had been in a serious car crash on March 21, a few days earlier and was hospitalised.  It was a generous gesture as both artists were competing for the top spot in the national charts……….Elvis was keenly aware of Carl’s condition and was genuinely concerned about his welfare.

The major chapters cover each of the programs Elvis appeared on:

  • The Dorsey Brothers Stage Shows
  • The Milton Berle Shows
  • Wink Martindale’s Dance Party
  • The Steve Allen Show
  • The Ed Sullivan Shows
  • The Frank Sinatra Timex Show (“Welcome Home Elvis”)

There is also a one page listing of all of Elvis’ TV appearances from 1956 to 1960 including songs sung.


The Visuals

To say that the visual component of Elvis on Television is impressive is an understatement! That Joseph Pirzada has accessed hundreds of visuals that are crystal clear and of such high quality is incredible and the result is a collection of visuals that are manifestly striking. The black and white composition of the majority of the images accentuates many close up facial shots of Elvis while their often full page size treats the viewer to a mouth watering, visual experience.

While the majority of images are in atmospheric black and white there are a number in eye-catching full color.

Not surprisingly, with over 400 pages and hundreds of (generally) crystal clear, wonderful images, there are many highlights in the book. Some of the countless stand-out visuals include:


  • pp 52-53 – a one and a half page image from the Dorsey Brothers Stage Show of Elvis with guitar ‘on the air” confronting his stand up mic
  • pp85-87 – an animated Elvis dressed in black shirt with striped jacket during rehearsals for the Milton Berle Show (above left)
  • p153 – full page (lucky) Elvis with his arm around Irish McCall, TV’s Sheena, Queen of the Jungle. (above right)
  • p168 - great full page image from the Wink Martindale Dance Party where both Elvis and an unidentified girl are making kooky looking facial expressions
Personal photos including a standard CD cover help demonstrate the huge-sized photos.
  • pp182-183 – evocative double page spread of Elvis singing and playing the piano while the Colonel and two Executives from the William Morris Agency lean, somewhat disinterestedly, on the piano
  • pp200-201 - full color one and a half page long shot of a focused, guitar strumming Elvis wearing cowboy hat (as shown below)
  • pp236-237 – another double page spread of Elvis as he leaves, in unusual fashion, the Hudson Theater in New York
  • p245 - full colour, full page image of Ed Sullivan wearing his customary suit (blue lit) with a contrasting Elvis, dressed in casual attire, the King replete with haunting, background silhouette (see below)
  • p268 – a hypmotically striking image of Elvis (situated foreground) surrounded by darkness and a UFO like light shining high above
  • p350 - another sumptious full page visual with Elvis teaching 17-year old Lynda Padrick how to play (an Elvis) guitar. (see below)
  • a glorious seven page spread of full page images featuring Elvis on the Frank Sinatra Timex Show
Please note that the low-res personal scans used in this review do not show the true quality of the images

While you will have seen many of the images before, it is their clarity and sharpness in Elvis on Television which dazzles and entrances.

The photos also capture the pure joy and excitement of seeing Elvis at his most natural during those early years.


Adding gravitas to Elvis on Television is the inclusion of a range of archival material including TV Guide listings, press reviews, magazine covers, RCA promotional items, show script pages, record covers, and a lot more.



The Book Design

As we have come to expect from Boxcar the book design is first rate. As a large sized book (26 x 3.5 x 32 cm) it oozes thought and care with each page presenting its narrative and visual content on high quality, semi-gloss paper stock. With full page visuals and hybrid text-image pages there is excellent use of white space, photo positioning, font size and line spacing.

Given its size and volume Elvis on Television is necessarily a heavy book (2.75kgs/6 lbs) and comes housed in an attractive, ultra-sturdy, hard slipcase.

Congratulations to Eike Hahn for her superb work on designing the look and feel of Elvis on Television.


Verdict: Joseph Pirzada's Boxcar Enterprises continues its exceptional run of producing high quality photo journals which are mandatory inclusions in any serious Elvis library. Elvis On Television 1956-60 is a wonderful release reflecting great balance between well considered narrative and glorious imagery. As noted earlier, the literary sub-canon on Elvis’ television performances is a small and surprisingly rich one. In this respect, Elvis on Television 1956-60 does not disappoint and positions itself very nicely in the upper echelon of all Elvis book releases.

Comment on this review


EIN Reader Feedback

Terry Filby: I agree with all your positive comments about this book, it is a stunning piece of work, even down to the clever design of picking out the title, and the atmospheric blue image cover of Elvis on the stage, it is a great companion to the smaller book/soundtrack package. Well done Joseph and MRS/ BOXCAR.

Susan T: Thanks you for the informative review. This is a stunning book and i thought it very good value for money when it was deliverred. I have never bought such a large photo book before but the quality of the 1950s photos and Elvis on TV is fabulous. I got it very quick through Amazon in England.

'Elvis - Aloha Via Satellite: A 40th Anniv Release': Getting rave reviews from Elvis fans - "this book is just nothing short of incredible!", "Beautiful packaging and quality all the way through", "my first thoughts on the book are WOW the photos are incredible so sharp, many I have never seen before", "Really enjoy following the whole story in chronological order, and some of those black and white rehearsal show shots are astounding" - are just some comments on FECC.

The latest release celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Aloha Via Satellite from Joseph Pirzada’s Boxcar label dropped into the EIN mail box.  With considerable pre-publication hype, a stunning 440 pages and more than 1,000 visuals, many of them "alternate" shots or unpublished, can it really be as good as we all hope. Is this the ultimate photo-journal about Aloha? GO HERE AS EIN brings you the first on-line detailed review.

Click here for our detailed review by Nigel Patterson - including plenty of fabulous Aloha Elvis images

(Book Review, Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)

'Graceland Through The Years 1957-1977' Book Review: The latest release about Elvis’ Memphis mansion from Joseph Pirzada’s Boxcar label dropped into the EIN mail box last week.  With considerable pre-publication hype, an impressive 450 pages and more than 1,000 visuals, did it impress EIN as an expansive top floor view or as a depressingly damp basement?

Click here for our detailed review by Nigel Patterson - including plenty of Graceland Elvis images and example pages - Now UPDATED with more photos


(Book Review, Source: ElvisInformationNetwork)


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