"Michael T. Bertrand has managed to argue more cogently and with more evidential authority than any previous commentator that the music that Elvis Presley and his rockabilly cousins fashioned in the South in the 1950s represented a serious threat to various national and regional social conventions, particularly those relating to race, class, and gender." Brian Ward, Journal of American History "With his meticulous research and elegant, concise prose, Bertrand explains the class and racial origins of rock 'n' roll, situates the music within the larger context of the turbulent 1950s South, and explores the firestorm of debate that swirled around the music and its chief promoter, the hip-swiveling Elvis." Patrick Huber, History: Reviews of New Books "His arguments are always persuasive and his lines of reasoning are clear... A thoroughly absorbing piece of work." Keith Briggs, Blues & Rhythm Magazine "Convincingly argues that the black-and-white character of the sound, as well as Elvis's own persona, helped to relax the rigid color line and thereby fed the fires of the civil rights movement." Karal Ann Marling, American Historical Review "A major contribution to our knowledge of the cultural importance of early rock and roll." Craig Morrison, Journal of American Folklore
Observing that young fans of rhythm and blues in the South seemed more inclined than their elders to disregard Jim Crow's long shadow, "Race, Rock, and Elvis" examines the emergence of rock 'n' roll in a social and regional context. Bertrand connects the music to the larger transformations that were unsettling the post-World War II southern landscape. Specifically, he shows how alienated and anonymous working-class teenage migrants such as Elvis Presley embraced black music and style to create identities within unfamiliar postwar urban settings. Bertrand contends that unprecedented access to African American culture challenged Presley's generation to reassess age-old segregationist stereotypes. In evaluating the results of this intricate process, Bertrand provides a fascinating glimpse into the relationship between popular culture and social change. Michael T. Bertrand is an assistant professor of history at Tennessee State University.