The voice of singer Solomon Burke, the “Bishop of Soul,” wailed and preached from the Chilmark Community Center rafters Thursday night as the Martha’s Vineyard Author Series welcomed Peter Guralnick.

After a deeply researched, two-volume Elvis Presley biography and a series of acclaimed books on Black musicians, Mr. Guralnick looks back on his unlikely career in his latest book, Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing.

“I wanted to be a writer, from the time I was a little kid,” Mr. Guralnick told the audience, during an onstage conversation with University of South Carolina professor Patricia Sullivan.

Two chance encounters at the end of the 1950s, when he was in his mid-teens, set the course for what would become a lifetime of writing about music, Mr. Guralnick said. The first was Ernest Hemingway’s 1958 interview in the Paris Review.

Mr. Guralnick's new book is titled, Looking to Get Lost: Adventures in Music and Writing. — Ray Ewing

“He talked about his commitment to writing every day, no matter what he did the night before, no matter what he planned to do the following night. The important thing was to write every day, and he did, [and] if he got 500 words, that was really great,” Mr. Guralnick recalled.

“I decided, okay... I may not be as good as Hemingway. But I could write 500 words a day, and I committed myself at 15 to writing every day, no matter what else happened,” he said.

Also at 15, the aspiring writer found his subject matter when a friend’s big brother returned to Boston from the Newport Folk Festival with a handful of blues LPs.

“We were just totally flipped by it,” Mr. Guralnick said of the music — by artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins, Leadbelly and Big Bill Broonzy. That sounded like nothing he’d ever heard before, and continues to inspire him a lifetime later.

“The blues was what turned me on to everything. I just never looked back... To this day, it remains something which is a compelling interest,” he said.

“I wrote about it, initially, because I was passionate about it. And I continue to be just as interested in Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, or Johnny Shines, or, you know, Bill Monroe,” Mr. Guralnick said, listing a bluegrass patriarch among the blues legends.

“I can’t explain it. I mean, it’s a music that has gone around the world,” Mr. Guralnick continued.

Blues music has been stigmatized as a relic of segregation and oppression. But that color line did not exist among the musicians themselves, Mr. Guralnick told the audience. For instance, he said, the eerie vocals of Howlin’ Wolf (Chester Arthur Burnett) are a direct gift from early country singer Jimmy Rodgers, who sang at the plantation where the teenaged Burnett worked and — noting the youngster’s interest — gave him a yodeling tutorial.

“Wolf said, ‘And that’s where I got my howl from,’” he said.

Howlin’ Wolf himself considered Elvis Presley a peer, calling him “that blues singer from Memphis ... who went to Hollywood,” Mr. Guralnick said.

While delighting the Chilmark audience with anecdotes from his work, which often included shadowing musicians through their days and nights, Mr. Guralnick also talked about how he writes his in-depth profiles.

“I try never to leave the moment,” he said, whether he’s writing about living artists or historical figures like Cooke and Presley. “I’m not interested in what the world thinks of Elvis,” Mr. Guralnick said. “What I’m interested in is what was Elvis’s experience. ...“Any writing involves total immersion, and if you don’t give it everything you have... don’t bother. It’s not worth it,” Mr. Guralnick said.

“That goes for anything,” he added.

The author series continues at the community center Thursday with cookbook author Eric Kim, followed on July 28 by former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder.