Review - Elvis: July 5 to July 31, 1956

Elvis Presley was one of the most photographed people in history, and many biographers wrote hefty books on – parts or aspects – of his life. So the question is if there is room for more – detailed – works on Elvis Presley. Paul Bélard’s ongoing series of scholarly works, exploring Elvis Presley’s career and his impact on society in the USA and abroad, prove there is. 

Just released is the new volume: 'Elvis: July 5 to July 31, 1956 - Memphis - Biloxi - New Orleans'. 


Design

The 200-page paperback book follows the format set by Paul’s previous books. Each volume in his illustrated biography series documents a specific time-frame or aspect of Elvis’ life. After a brief introduction, setting the scene, the pictures do the talking. To paint the complete – almost day by day – picture, Paul added pretty much all images available. Going beyond the standard images we know. The time-line is further illustrated with archival material. 

As the images were sourced from various books, magazines and different corners of the world wide web, most of them being candid shots, it is understandable that there is variation in the quality of the pictures. The author found a good balance between completeness and quality to illustrate the story. 


Content

The book covers the month July from Elvis breakthrough year 1956. In July Elvis took his first vacation after months of incessant grueling tours, several appearances on television, and the memorable show he gave in Memphis on July 4th 1956. 

This vacation took him from Memphis to Tupelo, Biloxi, New Orleans and back to  Memphis. On holiday he was joined by photographer Lloyd Shearer who visited him in his hometown and took a slew of pictures of Elvis at his hairdresser, in the streets of Memphis, in his hotel room and at Audubon Drive. The story behind this article, featuring some classic shots, is one of the storylines for the book. 

Paul Bélard must be complimented for his effort to meticulously research and update the Elvis timeline. Tracking every picture and finding its place on the timeline, overcoming the challenge that the various biographies offer conflicting information on what happened, where it happened and when exactly it happened. I’m thankful Paul did the research for us, it must have been a hell of a job.

The book differs from the usual photobooks, as most pictures are candid’s, showing Elvis in private and behind the scenes. This volume illustrates how much Elvis had grown from the truck-driver who recorded ‘That’s All Right’ just two years earlier, to the professional entertainer that conquered the nation by storm. 

Although fans and bystanders didn’t have mobiles and social media to follow and photograph celebrities, Elvis’ stardom doesn’t seem to differ all that much from today’s big artists. Elvis appears to be mobbed by a crowd of fans almost 24/7. There is a nice picture of a group of fans with their ears to the wall of Elvis bedroom at Audubon Drive ... and then some of today’s popular artist complain … 

The book nicely shows how Elvis dealt professionally with all the attention and people asking for photographs. The "before and after" images show Elvis being photographed but not noticing it (looking a bit grumpy) followed by a picture, taken a few second later,  of Elvis with a professional smile when he noticed he was being photographed. It shows Elvis taking time to do a quick picture with a fan, but not (always) posing voluntarily or getting out of the car for a picture. 

Paul Bélard smartly integrated the pictures and Parade Magazine feature by Lloyd Shearer, and expanding the story from there. As there were no social media, magazines like 'Parade’ and ‘Radio Mirror’ were the go-to for fans and criticasters of the Elvis Presley phenomenon. A chance for fans to get up close and personal. This book details the story behind these kind of articles to document the era and end-stage of Elvis rise to fame. He goes beyond the images we already know, bringing it all together in an illustrated timeline.

Besides these pictures from the crowd, we get the pictures of Elvis relaxing with his girlfriend, parents and friends. At moments you get the idea you're browsing through Elvis' family photo album. 


Conclusion

Paul Bélard really captured July 1956 in pictures, illustrating the Elvis Presley story with another illustrated timebox. Reading the book, Paul not only takes you back 65 years, he puts you on the backseat of Elvis’ holiday trip, probably one of the last relaxed holidays with friends and family holidays before stardom would take over his life. 

Paul Bélard’s comment on the Lloyd Sheared article in Parade magazine also goes for his own book, “an insightful and courteous look at Elvis at this crucial time of his climb to everlasting fame”. An easy and entertaining read, recommended for fans and (Elvis) historians. 


Order information

The book is available from >>> Amazon.com or directly from the author by email at pbelard@hotmail.com if you prefer a signed and numbered copy.