Before Elvis

The African American Musicians Who Made the King

Regular Price $30.00

Regular Price $39.00 CAD

Regular Price $30.00

Regular Price $39.00 CAD

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On Sale

Jan 7, 2025

Page Count

320 Pages




A thought-provoking exploration of the Black musicians who inspired Elvis Presley’s music, primarily through the lens of four overlooked artists:  Little Junior Parker, Big Mama Thornton, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, and Calvin Newborn

After Baz Luhrmann’s movie, Elvis, hit theaters in the summer of 2022, audiences and critics alike couldn't help but question the Black origins of Elvis Presley’s music and style, reigniting a debate that has been circling for decades. In Before Elvis: The African American Musicians Who Made the King​, author Preston Lauterbach answers these questions definitively, based on new research and extensive, previously unpublished interviews with the artists who blazed the way and the people who knew them.
Within these pages, Lauterbach examines the lives, music, legacies, and interactions with Elvis Presley of the four innovative Black artists who created a style that would come to be known as Rock ’n’ Roll: Little Junior Parker, Big Mama Thornton, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup, and most revealingly, the mostly-unknown eccentric Beale Street guitarist Calvin Newborn, whose portrayal will be a revelation to even the most seasoned Elvis Presley and rock devotees. Lauterbach makes a convincing case that Newborn is the key to understanding where Presley’s music and performance style came from. And Lauterbach has the receipts, the dates, the interviews, and the confirmation of Presley’s presence and key club engagements, and the recording sessions. Along the way, he delves into the injustices of copyright theft and media segregation that resulted in Black artists living in poverty as white performers, managers, and producers reaped the lucrative rewards.
In the wake of continuing conversations about American music and appropriation, Before Elvis is indispensable.