Don’t step on the blue suede

Elvis and the Birth of Rock, a new title from Genesis Publications, showcases a remarkable collection of mostly never-before-seen photographs of the pioneers of rock’n’roll: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin and more…

Elvis on stage

Elvis and the Birth of Rock, a new title from Genesis Publications, showcases a remarkable collection of mostly never-before-seen photographs of the pioneers of rock’n’roll: Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin and more…

There are hundreds of books devoted to Elvis and to Rock’n’Roll but most of the photos collected here have never been published before. So what’s the coup? On November 23 1956, a young amateur photographer who worked for his high school newspaper, was invited to photograph Elvis Presley at the Cleveland Arena, Ohio. A labour strike at the three major newspapers in Cleveland that day meant that the then 17 year-old Lew Allen was the only photographer at the show. It is Allen’s photos taken at this show that form the bulk of the images in the book and each image is accompanied by Allen’s notes and rememberings.

Of course, 1956, the year Allen took these shots, was a defining year for Presley as he had his first number one hit that year (with Heartbreak Hotel), released his first album – and his first film, Love Me Tender, was released that year also. Here are a selection of images from the book:

Elvis on the phone

“I was standing in the hallway and one of the managers came up to Elvis and told him there was a girl on the telephone who was in the hospital,” Allen explains of this shot of Elvis on the phone. “She had tickets for the show and couldn’t come as she had a serious illness. Elvis said, ‘I want to talk to her.’ And he marched in to a room and held up the entire show for fifteen minutes to talk to that girl. He had a long conversation with her and asked her several questions, with warmth and interest. I remember he said, ‘No, honey I don’t have a blue Cadillac. I’ve got a pink one, a black one, a white one – oh yeah, I do have a blue one.’ He was a gentleman and I respected that immensely.”

Everly Brothers on stage

Allen captures the Everly Brothers performing. “This was their best move,” remembers Allen. “Dipping their guitars with one foot in front.”

Buddy Holly on stage

Allen: “I call this photo Bud Run. Buddy Holly’s running off the stage at the end of his performance and the eyes of all the musicians are on the orchestra leader, who is over to the left somewhere. Nobody is watching Buddy. It defines music in transition. A swing band backing a rock & roll musician. It was just another gig for Sam Donahue, since they were a local band.”

Bobby Darin

Bobby Darin steps out of his tour bus to be greeted by some fans.

Elvis book cover

Elvis and the Birth of Rock is limited to 1750 copies which are signed and numbered, and quarter bound in, wait for it, blue suede. There is also 350 copies of a Deluxe edition (fully bound in blue suede) which come with three signed and numbered limited edition prints of Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Bobby Darin.

Regular copies, £250. Deluxe copies, £395.

To order your copy or find out more, please visit

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