Friday, June 5, 2015

Peter Guralnick

Peter Guralnick is the author of the critically acclaimed two-volume biography of Elvis Presley—Careless Love and Last Train to Memphis. His new book is Sam Phillips: The Man Who Invented Rock n’ Roll — How One Man Discovered Howlin’ Wolf, Ike Turner, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley, and How His Tiny Label, Sun Records of Memphis, Revolutionized the World!

From Guralnick's Q & A with Isabella Biedenharn for Entertainment Weekly:

You knew Sam for years before you started writing his biography. How is it different writing about a friend, as opposed to someone you’d never met, like Elvis?

I knew Sam for about 25 years, and saw a great deal of him. It wasn’t that we started out as friends, but I saw him so much. Particularly when I was doing the Elvis biography, I would do these extensive interviews [with Sam] which could go on for five or six hours or more. In some ways, that’s what makes this book so different from the biographies of Elvis and Sam Cooke. And in this case, I knew Sam quite well, but I was also present at a lot of moments which were of some significance.

I would go to an event in Memphis honoring Johnny Cash, and Sam would be saying, “I believe if Jesus was to come back to earth—listen to me now! I believe if Jesus was to come back to earth—now hear what I’m saying! I believe if Jesus was to come back to earth, he would spend a night at the Hotel Peabody. No—he would spend two or three nights at the Hotel Peabody!” And so you have half the room just absolutely appalled at the irreligiously of it, even though Sam considered himself a religious person. And half the world, maybe the Brooklyn hipster half in Memphis, were absolutely delighted by it.

Sam believed in “individualism in the extreme,” he always said. And that was the life he lived. Whether it was a matter of calling Castro to tell him not to lose heart after the Bay of Pigs, or speaking of Jesus’s visit to the Hotel Peabody. He definitely made an impression. The point is, you could have made an epic movie by just spending one day with Solomon Burke, and similarly with Sam Phillips.

Ultimately, what you’re looking to do, whether you know the person or you don’t, is to be as honest as you possibly can. I guess these are my two aims: To tell the story as truly as I can, but at the same time, to...[read on]
--Marshal Zeringue