July 29

A Smash No. 1 Hit Right Out of the Box, “Don’t Be Cruel”

“Don’t Be Cruel” was released as a single together with Elvis Presley’s high-selling jukebox hit “Hound Dog” in 1956. Amazingly, both sides of the single reached No. 1 in the US. Up to the present, no other single in the history has ever matched such record yet. In many cases, “Don’t Be Cruel” was featured along with “Hound Dog” as a No. 1 hit. On Billboard’s ‘Best Sellers in Stores’ chart for instance, “Hound Dog/Don’t Be Cruel” appears as No. 1 song on August 18, 1956. Also, the same is the case when the former topped for the first time the Most Played in Juke Boxes’ chart on September 1, 1956.

Rise to Popularity of “Don’t Be Cruel”

Shortly after “Hound Dog” gained fame, “Don’t Be Cruel” followed and even surpassed the former’s chart performance. Accordingly, the latter topped not just one but three charts – country, pop, and R ‘n’ B. “Don’t Be Cruel” went on to become Presley’s biggest-selling hit in 1956 with more than four million copies in sales by the end of that year. Presley performed the song twice during his appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show. One in September 1956 and another in January 1957. Also, it became one of the songs that the King of Rock and Roll plays during concerts until his death in 1977.

Additional Facts of the Song

It was Otis Blackwell who penned “Don’t Be Cruel.” Blackwell was a songwriter who wrote most of Elvis Presley’ hits. It was told that Blackwell was in a bad state on the Christmas Eve of 1955 and happened to be in front of the Brill Building in New York City to warm himself. Fortunately, a friend of his named Leroy Kirkland passed by and asked Blackwell if he has some songs written. In the succeeding weeks, Blackwell sold a total of six songs to the publishing company for $25 each. They liked Blackwell’s compositions and later hired him to work full-time with them. Not long after, he received a great news about an up-and-coming music star who’ll be recording his songs. That singer was no other than Elvis Presley. In 2002, “Don’t Be Cruel” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Watch Presley’s performance of the song below.


Elvis Presley

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