Wednesday, September 14, 2011
Audiobook Spotlight: Me and a Guy Named Elvis gives heart to the icon's soul
Image courtesy of Tantor Media, Inc.
Everyone knows the side of Elvis that's the huge aviator sunglasses, the white sequined jumpsuits, the outrageous sideburns. But did you know Elvis studied martial arts and taught karate? Or studied methods of meditation and had light brown hair as a kid?
Me and a Guy Named Elvis, written by Jerry Schilling with Chuck Crisafulli, shows listeners a side of Elvis we so rarely see - the regular guy.
The audio begins with Schilling himself reading the introduction, in a growly, warm voice that pulls the listener in. He was one of Elvis's best friends and a longtime member of the renowned "Memphis Mafia," the group of guys that palled around and lived with Elvis, acting as de facto bodyguards. The transition to William Dufris's lighter, clearer tone starting in the first chapter gives the listener the satisfaction that the book's material is in good hands. It almost feels like Schilling is giving his blessing over the whole audiobook experience before handing it over to Dufris.
And he really does the icon justice by not trying to imitate the drawl we've all come to know, rather just hints at it, allowing us to break down all our preconceptions about the guy and really go beneath the surface. Schilling doesn't spin a drama-filled, expose-all tale about the ups and downs of Elvis's life. Yeah, there are the fights at the Graceland Mansion in Memphis, Tenn., and the discussion of Elvis's drug use; Schilling certainly doesn't shy away from the dark stuff. But he also talks about the good times, the parties at Graceland, and Elvis's incredible generosity, like one Christmas when they delivered a new wheelchair to a paralyzed friend who couldn't afford a new one. How he cared about his family and cared FOR them, letting them live at Graceland with him. Schilling writes with a kind of good-natured honesty with a massive amount of respect for the man as an artist as well as his friend.
And that's really what makes the book such a joy. It's everything you would hope your best friend would say about you - accepting your faults, working beyond them, but remembering you as that all-around generous good guy. Schilling talks about his personal transition of looking at Elvis with the kind of awe to becoming equals with him. It's a book about the power of friendship as much as about Elvis, and how strong friendships allow themselves to grow and evolve over the years, even if that involves a couple of break-up make-up fights. And well heck, it's nice to imagine Elvis as a light-brown haired 19-year-old with floppy hair in Memphis, just on the cusp of his music career, but taking the time to play touch football in the park with a bunch of his pals - including then 12-year-old Schilling - before changing the world with the force of his personality.
This audiobook is also chock-full of extras - after the tale is told Schilling graciously allows Dufris to interview him about what inspired him to write the book and what he hopes listeners took away from the experience. And the final icing on the cake - a recording of Elvis himself during a very personal moment reflecting on his music and his life.
This audiobook is a must for any die-hard Elvis fan, but also for anyone who believes in the power of a lifelong friendship between two regular guys. I'd like to think if Elvis were alive today, he would be moved and touched by this incredible tribute to him by someone who knew him best.
Click here to listen to an audio clip!