Elvis: A King In The Making

Alfred Wertheimer

....Book review....

The Five Mile Press, 2007, Hardcover (with dust jacket); 224 pages, Illustrated, ISBN-13: 978-1741786552

Released in Australia & New Zealand through Bookwise Australia

Also released in the UK by Carlton Books

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson

In Australia - Buy Elvis: A King In The Making

In the UK - Buy Elvis: A King In The Making

The thought of a young Elvis in 1956 conjures up vivid images of a rebellious rock 'n' roll artist ripping up the musical and cultural landscape of America; sending eager teenage girls into rapturous delight; alienating a right wing, conservative establishment; and perplexing millions of parents trying to come to terms with the tensions of separate but intertwined realities - the Cold War aftermath of bloody global hostilities a decade before, and their increasingly independent and affluent offspring.

And the quintessential impact of this time and its principal protagonist were artfully captured and preserved for all-time by one man.....Alfred Wertheimer.

The Alfred Wertheimer photo archives is arguably the most famous Elvis visual collection in the world. And while the master photographer was only with Elvis for a relatively short time, the visuals he captured offer a timeless exposition of the young King of Rock 'n' Roll Elvis at his peak.


And finally, Wertheimer's magnificent photographs have been released in a way which does them proper justice!

Elvis: A King In The Making, the latest photo-journal from Wertheimer is the stand-out book of its type in 2007 and one of the best Elvis book releases in many years! In the USA the book was published as Elvis At 21: From New York To Memphis.

In fact it is easily the best designed and visually stimulating collection of the famous Wertheimer Elvis photos yet produced. Wertheimer's earlier Elvis '56, while itself impressive on original release, pales in comparison to this incarnation of the photographers' vast Elvis image archive.

The book itself is big. Measuring 35.2 x 28.8 x 2.8 cm it is oversized as most books go, and it weighs a ton. Its size is part of its visual attraction and impact. You cannot help miss it and the extra large pages give added emphasis to the hundreds of exquisite black and white Elvis visuals inside.

With many full page photos of Elvis and a number of fold-out spreads viewers find their senses first excitedly stimulated, and then at times, numbed, as they struggle to fully comprehend the incredible historical significance of the imagery before them. This is a book you experience in the full sense of the word.

Its visuals cascade around you like grand, inspiring canvasses, an offering which, through individual interpretation, reveals new pleasures with every viewing. Wertheimer's finesse with the camera is simply superb.

Many of the photos are previously unpublished. They appear to include Elvis frolicking in the swimming pool; a great shot of a topless Elvis with Pepsi-Cola bottle firmly in hand; and a nattily attired Elvis sitting down to a hearty (nearly finished) meal of bacon, french fries and milk.

And did you know Elvis could play the piano accordian? Well it certainly seems that he does thanks to a full page image of Elvis tickling this unusual instrument's ivory.

Wertheimer took so many amazing photos of Elvis during his all to brief week or so on the road with The King that it is impossible to do justice to them all.

A two page, back view spread of Elvis and a female companion sitting in a take away food joint is so 1950s atmospheric you can literally sense the smells and feeling of the establishment they are in. Extraordinary stuff!

Elsewhere, there is an uncanny air of something special in a photographed from above shot of the young Hillbilly Cat, guitar in hand at his side, as he is acknowledged on stage; the cover photo used on Peter Guralnick's sublime Last Train To Memphis The Rise of Elvis Presley, takes on new meaning as a wonderfully evocative two page spread; while the amazing Russwood Park stills exude the still air of the evening and delightfully invade each pore of your being with their addictive presence.

For some strange but satisfying reason the Russwood Park photos seem at odds with what has gone before, and for this very reason they have a powerful resonance which sets them apart and fittingly closes the book leaving you not only wondering, but also wanting to revisit the stunning visual treat you have just experienced.

Not surprisingly, the narrative element of Elvis: A King In The Making is likely to be overshadowed by the book's achingly haunting visuals. Yet the narrative too has real strength.

A foreword by noted Elvis biographer, Peter Guralnick, and an introduction by Chris Murphy, nicely complement Wertheimer's own written opening to each section.

Wertheimer effectively sets the scene for his travels across America with Elvis, bringing to life in words and pictures the electric atmosphere of those seminal moments.

He explains why he changed visual strategy at one point, moving from a series of fairly sharp picture images to a feeling of "controlled bluriness". His openness to inform the reader is impressive and adds considerably to our enjoyment.


The visual sections are relentless in their commanding presence. They range from the Dorsey Bros Stage Show, Steve Allen Show and Mosque Theater in Richmond, Virginia, to Elvis in the recording studio, train bound from New York to Graceland, and at home. The final spread is wondrous, capturing all the tension and excitement of The King live in front of his hometown fans at Russwood Park in Memphis. It is compelling viewing indeed.

Symbolising its high quality, Elvis: A King In The Making features heavy, coated paper stock.

Verdict: Elvis: A King In The Making by Alfred Wertheimer is a wonderful release. Its large sized, evocative images are fresh and alive, and represent a stunning tribute to a young performer on the verge of international superstardom. Highly recommended!

In Australia - Buy Elvis: A King In The Making

In the UK - Buy Elvis: A King In The Making



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