Book review:

"Elvis' early radio days comprehensively covered in fascinating book release"

Elvis A Radio History from 1945 to 1955, Aaron Webster

The Republic of Texas Press hit a home run with their excellent release, 'Elvis In Texas'. Now they've hit a second home run with the recently published, 'Elvis A Radio History From 1945 to 1955' by Aaron Webster.

Virtually each page of this book offers a new insight into or addition to the Elvis story.

The premise of 'Elvis A Radio History' is to examine in detail the significance of the radio medium in the rise and rise of The Hillbilly Cat in the mid 50's. As with 'Elvis In Texas' it is crammed full of first rate research, 'lost' information, literally hundreds of rare photos and interviews with those who were there at the time.

There is also a complete listing of Elvis' radio performances during 1945-55 and fascinating information such as exactly how much Elvis earned in 1955! The easy flowing text is chock full of country music and rockabilly history with names and incidents involving Slim Whitman, Hank Snow, Mitch Miller, Johnny Cash, Sam Phillips, Hank Snow, Porter Wagoner, Webb Pierce, Carl Perkins, Jimmie Snow, Wanda Jackson and 'Deacon' Andy Griffiths to mention but a few.

A fascinating aspect of Aaron Webster's book is the detail provided on Elvis' bookings throughout the southern states and the importance of radio disc jockeys in that process. Other stories of interest are the history of the famous 'Pied Piper of Cleveland' film footage, an interview between Elvis and songwriter Mae Axton and the passionate and clever manoeuvreings of Colonel Parker.

Webster scorches up the radio landscape with his vivid colorisations of events that bring to life the heady atmosphere of the period. It is real 'fly on the wall' stuff as the author takes us into the inner sanctum, describing events as they unfolded:

'It was Friday the 13th and the thirteenth engagement. It was also a hot, sticky, intolerable 98 degrees after sundown. With no courtesy toward the entertainers, kids in the massive crowd were booing everyone on the lineup with increasing rejection. Hank Snow was booed so much that he stopped singing and motioned his band to retreat. Snow walked out of the dugout and said "have at 'em, Elvis. They're your crowd." Elvis was genuinely embarassed.' 'As the song ended cold, Elvis said, "Hot dog, Mae! Play it again." Webster also captures the incredible socio-cultural impact of the young Elvis and his effect on his peers: "I remember how cool he was in my mind," Jimmie Snow echoes that very point. "I wanted to sing like him. I wanted to dress like him and do things I never cared about till I met him. He was the change that was coming to America."

The only black spot in the book (and this can be forgiven) is its repeating of the emotionally charged but erroneous myth that James Denny from the Grand Ole Opry told Elvis to go back to driving a truck.

The full title for the book is actually 'Elvis The New Rage A Radio History From 1945 to 1955' but for some reason 'The New Rage' was dropped from the cover title, although it still appears on the inside title page.

The author is a Southern Illinois disc jockey who witnessed live in concert at his final St. Louis concert in March 1977. He and his father also witnessed the incredible scenes outside Graceland in the aftermath of Elvis' passing. Aaron also produced and hosted the radio show, 'Elvis: Southern Roots' and 'The King on the Q'. His on-air work was honored when he received the 1999-2000 National Finalist for Best Audio Program in the 16th Annual Silver Microphone Awards.

Verdict: Whether you are an Elvis historian or a passing fan, 'Elvis A Radio History From 1945 To 1955' is one book you should add to your collection.

About the Author: Aaron Webster, a Southern Illinois disc jockey, was a young boy when he saw Elvis Presley’s final St. Louis concert in March 1976. He and his father were on Elvis Presley Boulevard to witness the funeral procession for the entertainer in August 1977. A life-long Elvis fan, Aaron produced "Elvis: Southern Roots" for Great Gold on WDDD 107.3. As host and producer of "The King on the Q" on WQRL 106.3, a radio series sponsored in part by Graceland, Aaron’s on-air work received the 1999-2000 National Finalist for Best Audio Program in the 16th Annual Silver Microphone Awards.

Reviewed by Nigel Patterson, © EIN 2002

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