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Elvis & the Birth of Rock

The Photography of Lew Allen

Lew Allen & Mike McCartney

Elvis & the Birth of Rock celebrates the extraordinary era when rock and roll tour buses travelled the States, often presenting several legendary performers in a single billing, as documented in the stunning photographs of Lew Allen and the words of Mike McCartney.

'Everyone's greatest influences appear in their teenage years. It's that magical time. Lew Allen lived among Elvis, The Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly - all the people who influenced us as kids.' Mike McCartney

Lew Allen's remarkable photography is published here for the first time. His monograph reveals Elvis Presley on stage and behind the scenes; Buddy Holly playing and travelling, only a year before his untimely death; The Everly Brothers as headliners with their hit 'Wake Up Little Susie'; Frankie Avalon primps in front of a mirror; Buddy Holly and Don Everly share private jokes and Bobby Darin singing on stage, winking for Lew's camera.

'Remarkable photos of Elvis... Lew Allen had exclusive access to the King at the very start of his ascent to fame.' Uncut

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The Photography

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

'Looking back, I realised that I had witnessed and captured the birth of rock 'n' roll.' - Lew Allen

1956 was a defining year for Elvis Presley as he rocketed from regional celebrity to national icon. In January, his first Number One hit, 'Heartbreak Hotel' was followed by his first album topping the charts in March.

On November 23rd, a 17-year-old photography enthusiast was invited to shoot Elvis Presley at the Cleveland Arena for his high school newspaper. A labour strike at the three major newspapers in Cleveland meant that Lew Allen was the only photographer at the show.

'I didn't even shoot all the film I had with me! Had I known what I know today, things would have been very different!' - Lew Allen

'I instantly fell in love with Lew's work... The photos transported me to a very special time in music...' - Mike McCartney

Interspersed among the photographs of Elvis, are images from two shows in Rochester, New York in 1958, both part of popular music bus tours throughout the States, which included several now-legendary acts, such as Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Bobby Darin, Frankie Avalon, and many more.
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The Manuscript

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

Accompanying the photographs, Elvis & the Birth of Rock features a text of over 7,000 words from Lew Allen and guest editor Mike McCartney, as they discuss what it was like to be in the presence of such legendary performers.

'Buddy's running off the stage at the end of his performance and the eyes of all of 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 'n' roll musician.' - Lew Allen

'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. She had tickets for the show and couldn't come as she had a very serious illness. Elvis said, 'I want to talk to her,' and he marched in to a room and held up the entire show for 15 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.'  - Lew Allen
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The Author

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

It was Bob Shatten, Lew Allen's nephew, who began the task of assembling the work for publication in 1988 when Lew dug out some old contact sheets that had been gathering dust in his basement for decades.

That work was continued by Mike McCartney who brought the previously unseen collection to the attention of Genesis Publications. The project's three collaborators, Lew, Bob, and Mike, provide a fascinating and illuminating commentary to the photographs, exploring their historic context and cultural significance.
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The Collector Copies

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

Collector copies are numbered 351 - 1,750 and are signed by the photographer, Lew Allen, and guest editor Mike McCartney.

Lew Allen's photographs are reproduced throughout in duotone inks with image varnishing on to heavyweight, 200 gsm matt art paper. The large-format book (10" x 14 ¼" / 360mm x 260mm) is quarter-bound in fine blue suede with silver blocking and page edging. Each Collector copy is presented in a custom-designed archival case.


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The Deluxe Copies

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

The first 350 copies in this limited edition are Deluxe copies. Fully bound in blue suede, Deluxe copies additionally include three signed and numbered prints of Elvis Presley, The Everly Brothers and Bobby Darin.



Lew Allen's Deluxe prints are offset printed in a warm duotone with image varnish on to heavyweight matt art paper (8" x 10" / 200mm x 254mm). Each print is numbered and signed by the photographer. The Deluxe book itself is hand-bound in fine blue suede with silver blocking and page edging. All copies are signed by Lew Allen and Mike McCartney. Presented in an archival custom-designed case, the Deluxe book-and-prints boxed set is a true collector's piece.


Elvis & the Birth of Rock

The Photography of Lew Allen

Select from the following editions:

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

Elvis & the Birth of Rock

  • ISBN:
  • Collector:
    1400 copies
  • Signed by:
    Lew Allen, Mike McCartney
  • Contributors:
    Bob Shatten
  • Paper:
    200gsm matt art acid-free paper
  • Binding:
    Quarter-bound in blue suede, with printed Imitlin boards, black tooling and silver page edging.
  • Box:
    Hand-made box
Collector £255
Available from £84.15 per month. Learn more >

An extraordinary insight into a bygone era when rock and roll musicians travelled by bus, casually helped each other with lyrics, carried their own stage outfits and were backed by the local orchestra. Guest edited by Mike McCartney.

  • Page size: 360mm x 260mm
  • 156 pages
  • 7500 words
  • 78 images
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Since 1974 Genesis has created signed limited edition books on behalf of authors and artists ranging from the Beatles to Buckingham Palace.


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