'Elvis Presley Gospel Singer'

An Inspirational Life

By Madeleine Wilson

Book Review by Nigel Patterson, August 2022

Book Review

 Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer:

An Inspirational Life

by Madeleine Wilson

Shalom Publishing, UK, 2022

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, August 2022  

With added EIN Reader Feedback below


Elvis, “The King”, many times said publicly that there is only one King, and that is Jesus Christ. He not only acknowledged the Lord but also worshipped Him and prayed to Him, often.

(Madeleine Wilson)

It has been said that the formula of a great tragedy is that a fatal flaw prevents tremendous potential from being realized, and the ending is one of ruin not of joy.

In many ways, the life story of Elvis Presley can be seen as one of tragedy…

(from the Introduction)

Madeleine Wilson’s new book, Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer: An Inspirational Life, documents the seminal influence and importance of his Christian faith and gospel music and tradition, in Elvis’ life.

Considering how central gospel music was to Elvis, it is surprising there is not a larger and more robust catalog of books on the subject. Compared to the hundreds of books on Elvis’ life, music, and films, there only around a dozen books focusing on Elvis and gospel music, and a number of these are not solely about the theme. Even fewer consider the binary forces of Elvis’ Christian faith and gospel music, in shaping his story.

As most fans know, during his lifetime, the only (three) Grammy awards Elvis received were for his gospel recordings.

In this context, the release of Madeleine Wilson’s thoroughly researched and thoughtful book is long overdue, and a welcome addition to the Elvis literary canon. The author has a strong Christian faith, and this is reflected in her consideration of her subject, and arguably gives her a greater understanding of how those forces impacted Elvis.

Ms. Wilson’s approach is impressive and makes her book stand out from others. She has written Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer in biographical format, interweaving the role of Elvis’ Christian faith and love of gospel music at each stage and event in his complex, and storied life. It is essentially Elvis’ Christian biography.

As the basis for Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer is to focus on his faith and gospel music as they impacted his life, the author does not dissect Elvis’ studio gospel sessions, but rather, draws attention to particularly important recordings in the context of his life and career (including home recordings, Crying In the Chapel, and the gospel songs he sang in concert).

Ms. Wilson has a strong and easy-going writing style which engages the reader.

Her description of how Elvis’ life evolved is rich in detail and context. For example, her discussion of Elvis growing up in Tupelo resonates with important information about the Bible Belt, raising patriots, the terrible destruction of the tornado that ripped through Mississippi in 1936, and Vernon Presley’s unfortunate incarceration. It details the Presley family’s involvement at church and how the foundation for Elvis’ faith was established.

In a passage reflected slightly differently in the current Elvis biopic from Baz Luhrmann, the author observes that Elvis regularly attended the AoG (Assembly of God) church in Adams Street, East Tupelo, and:

It was here that one Sunday morning, the shy two-year-old Elvis, slipped from his mother’s lap, ran down the aisle and scrambled onto the platform to join the choir.

Elvis’ generosity to others is well documented, and Ms. Wilson comments:

Elvis’ generous habit of giving to others throughout his lifetime is a result of his upbringing and Christian beliefs, following the words of the apostle Paul, “You yourselves know that thee hands of mine have ministered to my own needs and those of my companions. In everything, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus Himself: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’” (Acts 20: 34&35)

In the face of success, distractions and temptations, it can be difficult to maintain and practice one’s faith. The author discusses when the dominance of Christian faith started to weaken in Elvis life, it coincided with him becoming a film star in Hollywood. Importantly, Elvis realized the issue, and it weighed heavily on his mind:

He [Elvis] passed a note to one the ushers to give to pastor, Rev. Hamill, to ask him if he could meet him in his office after the service. Elvis was shown to the office and waited for Rev. Hamill, who recalled, “When I walked into my office, Elvis was sitting down, but he quickly got up. He said ‘Pastor I am the most miserable young man you have ever seen. I have got more money than I can ever spend. I have thousands of fans out there and a lot of people who call themselves my friends. But I am miserable. I am not doing a lot of things you taught me, and I am doing the things that you have taught me not to do.’….

Rev. Hamill wanted to help Elvis, so told him he would find the address of a pastor friend of his in Hollywood, to whom he could go in times of trouble. Elvis did receive the address, but never got in touch with the pastor.

While Elvis’ Hollywood years would see him drift apart away from direct involvement with the church, the connection he had with his faith continued to be experienced through his love of gospel music, both at home, and in the recording studio. In this respect, while many biographies downplay Elvis’ film career, at least through the 1960s, Ms Wilson celebrates the gospel music offered in Elvis’ final two narrative films, The Trouble With Girls and Change of Habit.

During what is regarded as Elvis’ concert years (1969-1977), his connection to his faith was apparent in his live performances where songs such as How Great Thou Art, Why Me, Lord?, and the inspiring, An American Trilogy, were mainstays in his song list.

As An American Trilogy suggests, the narrative is not confined to Elvis’ gospel songs. The author notes that a number of Elvis’ non-gospel recordings, like Trilogy, are inspirational. In discussing Always On My Mind, Ms Wilson poignantly comments:

This song had a profound effect on a member of my family. This person is the mother of three children, now all adults. Sometime in late August in 1997, one of her daughters suddenly confided in her mother that as a teenager she had felt very insecure and “not good enough”. That was a surprise for the mother as her daughter had always been very outgoing and vivacious.

Because [the mother] was an Elvis fan, she had recently purchased the recording and a few days later she was led to carefully listen to the words of Always On My Mind again. While she was listening, she shed many tears, mostly of regret, that she hadn’t always treated her daughter “as good as I should have,” that “I didn’t take the time to tell her that I am so happy that she is mine,” or “to hold her in all those lonely, lonely times.” She was “so sorry that I was blind and made her feel second best.”

When reading Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer, we also learn many things that we may not have previously known or had long forgotten. For instance, Elvis’ comments to promoter, Jerry Weintraub, on having to play Madison Square Garden in 1972 may surprise some readers:

“I’m not a New York City kind of artist. You know, they’re not gonna like me in New York City. They like me in Alabama and Georgia and Tennessee, you know, but I don’t want to go to New York City, Jerry. You’re gonna have trouble selling shows in New York City.”

While Elvis may have had doubts, history shows that he was the first music act to “sell out” four consecutive shows at the Garden, playing to a total of 80,000 appreciative fans and producing one of his most exciting “live concert” albums!

Not surprisingly, the chapter around Elvis’ death is full of emotional recollections and moments, including a contribution from Wanda June Hall, who recorded some of her telephone conversations with Elvis, and provides Elvis’ take on his life and death.

The chapters, Life After Death and The Beat Goes On, discuss how Elvis’ gospel music continues to be celebrated worldwide post his death in 1977, from being an integral part of fan club meetings and the European Walk A Golden Mile In My Shoes tribute artist contest, to Gospel events during Elvis Week at Graceland and as part of annual Elvis festivals in countries as far flung as Australia (Parkes Elvis Festival) and Germany (European Elvis Festival).

Reflecting the diverse range of information in the book, there is also information about churches based around Elvis, Elvis’ Induction into the Gospel Hall of Fame, Elvis receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the He Touched Me: The Gospel Music of Elvis Presley DVD, Where No One Stands Alone CD, and also the burning question, “Does God visit shopping malls?”

Many readers will also be interested in the (albeit sometimes brief) coverage of:

  • Sam Phillips’ faith;
  • the slippery slope of Elvis making so many films in Hollywood;
  • was Elvis racist?;
  • Elvis and prescription drugs;
  • the “Bodyguard” book (Elvis What Happened?);
  • academic examinations and conferences around Elvis’ faith and gospel music; and

…………. various other important issues, that populate the book.

The text also includes neat moments of humour:

“He enjoyed sharing the talents of his backing singers with us. In 1972, J.D. Sumner and the Stamps were featured in every show doing Walk That Lonesome Road, a song that J.D. had written, Elvis proudly informed us. But Elvis the practical joker used to throw water over them when Ed Enoch hit a certain high note. He soon learned to wait for that!

Adding gravitas to the author’s informative narrative is the use of quotes by those who knew, were family, and/or worked with Elvis. Those providing quotes about Elvis as a person and his relationship with his faith and gospel music include Priscilla Presley, Dixie Locke, Little Richard, B.B. King, James Brown, J.D. Sumner, Sammy Davis Jr., Terry Blackwood, Joe Moscheo, David Stanley, James Burton, Ronnie Tutt, Jerry Scheff, Patti Perry, Patsy Gambill, and Wanda June Hill.

One striking quotation is from Rev. Jack Hyles, who shared a radio station lift with Elvis in Texas. Rev. Hyles struck up a conversation with Elvis and asked him if he died that evening, did he know for sure that he would go to heaven. Elvis replied that he did know, and when questioned about how he knew, Elvis replied that:

…when he was young, he had gone down to the altar in a small Pentecostal church and had given his heart to Jesus and asked Him to be his personal Saviour.

The author’s Epilogue is titled, Why? It ends with a clever statement comprised of song titles that Elvis may have said to his fans if he was still alive today.

The book closes with five interesting Appendices:

  • Living the Good Life
  • More About the Christian Faith
  • How Radio was, and still is, vital to Elvis’ success
  • South & Mid-South Radio Stations
  • (a comprehensive) Bibliography

The book is dotted by various montages of photos from throughout Elvis’ life. They are mostly in colour and while the images are quite small, they are diverse, interesting, and relevant to the narrative.

Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer: An Inspirational Life is available in both softcover (ISBN-13: 978-1802272550) and e-Book (ISBN-13: 978-1802272567) formats.

Overall Verdict: As I mentioned at the beginning of my review, Elvis Presley, Gospel Singer – An Inspirational Life, is a long overdue entry in the Elvis literary canon. By interweaving how Elvis’ Christian faith and gospel music influenced his life and career, Madeleine Wilson has written a cogent and wonderful account of what were primary forces in determining who Elvis Presley was, both as a person and an artist.


About the author: Madeleine Wilson lives in the UK. She is President of the Elvis Gospel Fan Club and Founder of Elvis Gospel Ministries. Visit the Elvis Gospel website.


Madeleine previously wrote Prayers of Elvis (Shalom Publishing, 2002, ISBN-13: 978-0954323004).


Click to comment on this Review

Book Review by Nigel Patterson.
-Copyright EIN August 2022
EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.


EIN Reader Feedback

From: Prayerful Warrior Davis: How wonderful to learn of this amazing book! I can’t wait to read it! Thank you for your intriguing review.
I have known of Elvis‘s faith my whole life. My dad‘s younger siblings and cousins attended school with Elvis at Humes High in Memphis, and became close friends with him. We all have Musical, Pentecostal & Mississippi roots. I also got to know some of his family well when I lived in Atlanta, Georgia. They were my neighbors, and very nice Christian people!

My Grandfather pastored a small Pentecostal church in Center Hill, MS, while working and raising his family in Memphis, after selling the family farm down in the MS Delta and moving to Memphis in the early 1950’s.. Elvis worked with him and once told my grandfather that he wanted to use his musical & vocal talents to glorify God, from whom his gifts had come. But first his family needed money, so he was going to make enough from rock n roll to buy his mother a nice home, then do only gospel after that since it didn’t pay well enough (at that time) for him to afford a nice home.

Although Gospel songs were what Elvis loved and preferred to sing, obviously the Hollywood and R&R industry requirements would not allow Elvis Presley to live his dream and show the world who he really was. Amazing to know that his only Grammy awards were for his Gospel songs. That tells you a Lot right there, about what those secular industries think of their very talented performers who also sing & record Gospel and boldly stand up for Christ like Elvis did.

Oh but what an influence on the world, and what an impact he had on both industries! Elvis Presley certainly fulfilled God’s purpose for his earthly life, even though it was made miserable and cut short because of trying to continue to fulfill the harsh demands of the R&R industry. That sent a clear message to the world and, no doubt, has prevented countless young talented lives from being sold out to the unrelenting secular empires. I am sure that Elvis will eternally enjoy God’s rewards!

From: Stephen Hendy: Thanks for this review, it helped me decide to buy the book.
There is always more to learn about Elvis and his spiritual inspirations. While I am a little wary of yet another brother-in-law book Madeleine Wilson has added something new to the Elvis' legacy.
I found that the book is written in a nice style and I love being able to read quotes about Elvis by people that knew him well.   
It made me go out and play Elvis' gospel albums all over again. Such good and inspired music.

"The Gospel According To Elvis" - an EIN Spotlight by Nigel Goodall: In celebration of the new BMG release of 'I Believe: Elvis Gospel Masters' acclaimed author and EIN contributor Nigel Goodall explores this least appreciated influence on Elvis’ career. More than any other musical genre, gospel played a consistently important role in Elvis’ life, from his childhood to his final years on the road. Gospel music brought Elvis his only Grammy awards, and also became his consolation in times of stress or depression.  During the dark years of the 60s, when Elvis' recording career came close to collapsing in a sea of trivia, his spiritual releases acted as a beacon of artistic quality. Yet this side of Elvis' great legacy is too often ignored by the general public. Click here for this fascinating spotlight. (Spotlight, Source;EIN/Nigel Goodall)

'What was Elvis searching for?' EIN Spotlight: The question is raised – but never answered – in the title of HBO’s recent absorbing, imperfect documentary 'Elvis Presley: The Searcher'.
At the start it seems clear what the teenage Elvis was searching for – an escape from the oblivion of poverty in the American South. Yet his quest was cultural as well as financial.
Later Elvis read obsessively, seeking out such books as The Impersonal Life, Joseph Brenner’s guide to self-discovery and Kahil Gibran’s book of fables, The Prophet. In his copy of Gibran’s tome, Elvis jotted down the line: “A singer can sing his songs but he must have an ear to receive the song”.
So what exactly was Elvis searching for?

In this fascinating EIN Spotlight respected author Paul Simpson takes a close look at this all important question which, for some reason, was basically ignored in the recent HBO documentary..

(Spotlight, Source;PaulSimpson/ElvisInformationNetwork)

EIN Website content © Copyright the Elvis Information Network.
Elvis Presley, Elvis and Graceland are trademarks of Elvis Presley Enterprises.
The Elvis Information Network has been running since 1986 and is an EPE officially recognised Elvis fan club.

















































Did You Miss these Popular Interviews?
(Interview) Anne E. Nixon answers your questions
Ginger Alden Interview:
Elaine Beckett -Easy Come Easy Go costar- Interview:
Shirley Dieu, author of Memphis Mafia Princess, talks to EIN:
Interview With Elvis author - : Gillian G. Gaar
Interview with Dick Grob, Elvis' Head Of Security:
Interview with 'Elvis Films FAQ' author Paul Simpson:
Elvis Music FAQ - Mike Eder Interview:
"My Fast Life" Rare Elvis Presley 1964 Interview:
Linda and Sam Thompson in Australia:
John Wilkinson Tribute & 1972 Interview:
'Elvis: Walk A Mile In My Shoes' - Arjan Deelen Interview:
RIP - Bernard Lansky talks to EIN:
Allyson Adams 'The Rebel and The King' Interview: 
Joseph A. Tunzi
David Stanley (2012)
Vernon Presley Interview:
EIN interviews John Scheinfeld director of  'Fame & Fortune'
Jerry Leiber Interview for EIN
Elvis Paradise Hawaiian Interview - with Peter Noone
Sam Thompson, Elvis' bodyguard, 2011 Interview
James Burton Interview - Rick Nelson & Elvis:
Elvis Drummer Jerome "Stump" Monroe EIN Interview:
Donnie Sumner Remembers his friend Sherrill Nielsen: 
Lamar Fike EIN Exclusive Interview
Jamie Aaron Kelley - EIN Interview:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'The Complete Masters' and more:
D.J Fontana Interview - Elvis Week 2010 special: 
Red West Interview:- 2010 Elvis week special
Linda Thompson - Interview Special:
Elvis in 1969 - Ann Moses & Ray Connolly Interviews:
Ernst Jorgensen interview about 'On Stage' and Elvis' Legacy in 2010:
Paul Lichter
Dr. Nick talks to EIN
Alanna Nash
Ernst Jorgensen (2009)
Joseph Pirzada
Jeanne LeMay Dumas
Larry Geller
Mac Davis
Roger Semon
Ernst Jorgensen
Wayne Jackson (Memphis Horns)
Did You Miss these Popular EIN articles
'Elvis Meets The Beatles':
Did Elvis Record 'Tiger Man' At Sun?
Forever Elvis - A 2015 commemorative Spotlight:
Elvis "Non Stop Erotic Cabaret":
'Suppose - Did It Inspire Imagine':
EIN Spotlight on Aloha's director Marty Pasetta
FTD "What now, What next, What If? PART TWO ":
Elvis and the Coco Palms Resort:
Wertheimer's Reaction To Finding The 'Mystery Kisser':
UPDATED - 'Elvis Madison 1977 - The Gas Station Incident' with Kathy Westmoreland:
"If You're Going To Start A Rumble" -The Importance of Fights In Elvis Movies:
'Big Boss Man: What Kind of Technical Advice Did Parker Provide for Elvis’s Movies?':
FTD - What now, What next, Where to – What’s left?:
JAZZWORLD - Music vs. Elvis Presley.
UPDATED - 'American Studios 1969 - A Turning Point In History':
'ELVIS AT 21' Exhibtion
Elvis' Personal Record Collection:
'The Nation's Favourite Elvis Song' Spotlight
Linda and Sam Thompson in Australia:
Fourteen Key Elvis Singles:
Happy Birthday EIN EIN turns 100 – a retrospective!:
Elvis Week Through The Years - Sanja Meegin looks back:
'The Wedding' Elvis & Priscilla EIN special Spotlight:
John Lennon And Elvis: It was "Thirty Years Ago Today"
Elvis or Michael Jackson - who is the bigger star?
Dark Side of the Colonel
Elvis And The Vocal Group Tradition:
Aloha From Hawaii - The Concert 2013- EIN Exclusive
Elvis at Madison Square Garden 40 Years Ago
'The Wedding' Elvis & Priscilla EIN special Spotlight:
'Elvis In Ottawa' Spotlight & Elvis Interview:
"Kissed By Elvis" Janet Fulton Interview:
'1956, Elvis Presley’s Pivotal Year':
'Elvis In Concert' 1977 TV special; Should it be released officially?
Did you miss these Reviews
(Book Review): CHANNELING ELVIS How Television Saved the King of Rock 'n' Roll:
(Book Review) Elvis and Ginger:
‘Final Countdown To Midnight' jewel-case Versions Review:
'Elvis Files Magazine ISSUE 8' Review:
(Book Review) Memphis Mafia Princess:
'Final Countdown To Midnight' NYE 1976 - in-depth Review:
'ELVIS' FTD Classic Album Review:
(Book Review) 100 Things Elvis Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die:
'Elvis-The King Of The Jungle' In-Depth Book Review:
(Book Review): Elvis' Favorite Director: Norman Taurog:
'ELVIS AT 21' Exhibition Review:
'Elvis Music FAQ' - Book Review:
'Elvis Films FAQ' Book Review:
'The On Stage Season' FTD In-Depth Review:
'The Elvis Files Vol. 6 1971-1973'  Book Review:
'Love Me Tender' Blu-Ray Edition Review:
'Houston We Have A Problem' - CD review:
‘Elvis At Stax’ [Deluxe] Reviews:
‘The King Revealed’ Magazine Review:
'Hot August Night' FTD CD Review:
'Elvis - Aloha Via Satellite: A 40th Anniv Release' Book Review:
'The Elvis Files Vol. 1 1953-56' In Depth Book Review:
'Aloha From Hawaii' 40th Anniv LEGACY CD Review:
Aloha From Hawaii - The Concert 2013- EIN Exclusive Review:
‘Elvis On Tour’ E-book Review - with Great jumpsuit photos-
'From Elvis Presley Boulevard' FTD In-Depth Review:
'Prince From Another Planet’ In-Depth Review:
'Elvis: Walk A Mile In My Shoes' - EIN Review:
‘Greatest Live Hits of the 50s’ MRS CD Review: 
Once Upon A Time: Elvis and Anita (Memories of My Mother) - Book Review:
'A Boy From Tupelo' special In-depth Review:
Bootleg Elvis (Book Review)
'G.I.Blues Vol.1' FTD Soundtrack - CD review:
'From Hawaii to Las Vegas' FTD CD Review:
'Elvis: Live at the International' Book Review:
'The Complete Louisiana Hayride Archives 1954-1956’ Review:
'48 Hours To Memphis' FTD CD Review:
'Young Man with the Big Beat' In-Depth Review:
'Fashion For A King' FTD in-depth Review:
"ReBooked At The International'- in-depth Review:
'Stage Rehearsal' FTD Review:
Best of Elvis on YouTube
Graceland cam
EPE's Multimedia Elvis Gallery
Sirius Elvis Satellite Radio
Elvis Radio (ETA's)
Elvis Express Radio
Ultimate Elvis Radio
Elvis Only Radio
"Images in Concert" PhotoDatabase
Radio Interview: Vernon & Gladys Presley
Sanja's Elvis Week 2007 Photo Gallery
'EIN's Best of Elvis on YouTube'
The Music of Elvis Presley - Australian Radio Show
All about Elvis
All about Elvis Tribute Artists
All about Graceland
All about Lisa Marie Presley
Ancestors of Elvis
Art Archives
Book Releases 2009
Contact List
Elvis and Racism
Elvis as Religion
Elvis CDs in 2007
Elvis DVDs in 2006
Elvis Film Guide
'2007 New Releases'
Elvis Presley In Concert "downunder" 2006
Elvis Online Virtual Library
Elvis Research Forum
Elvis Rules on Television
Graceland - The National Historic Landmark
How & where do I sell my Elvis collection?
Is Elvis the best selling artist?
Links to Elvis' family & friends
Links to other Elvis sites
Marty's Musings
Online Elvis Symposium
Parkes Elvis Festival 2009 (Australia)
Presley Law legal archives (Preslaw)
Presleys In The Press
Sale of EPE (Archives)
6th Annual Elvis Website Survey
Spotlight on The King
"Wikipedia" Elvis biography