February 13

Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel” hasn’t broken him, has it?

“Heartbreak Hotel” is a song that American singer Elvis Presley made a cover of. Launched as a single on January 27, 1956, it was The King’s first under his new record label RCA Victor. The great lines came from Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton.

The Story Behind “Heartbreak Hotel”

In the year 1955, Mae Boren Axton penned the song with Tommy Durden. Axton is a high school teacher with a background in a musical promotion. And, Durden is a Jacksonville based singer-songwriter. This is a story based on a report supposedly in The Miami Herald. It was about a man who had destroyed all his identity papers and killed himself by jumping off a hotel window. At the crime scene was a suicide note having a one-liner, “I walk a lonely street”.

You make me so lonely baby
Well, I’m so lonely
I get so lonely I could die

During a country music convention in Nashville, Mae Boren presented the song to Presley in November 1955. Presley was in agreement to do a cover of “Heartbreak Hotel”. Soon after, Elvis Presley together with his band, The Blue Moon Boys, recorded it in a session. On January 10, 1956, guitarist Chet Atkins and pianist Floyd Cramer harmonized the track with Elvis. “Heartbreak Hotel” is an eight-bar blues progression. It is a track having heavy reverberation all throughout imitating the character of Presley’s Sun recordings.

How Successful The King was with “Heartbreak Hotel”

For seven weeks, the single ruled the Billboard’s Top 100 chart. In addition, it was on Cashbox’s pop singles chart for six weeks. Then, it became No. 1 on the Country and Western chart for seventeen weeks. Moreover, the song landed on spot number 3 on the R&B chart. The track gave The King his first million-seller, and one of the best-selling singles of 1956. “Heartbreak Hotel” achieved unheard feats as it reached the top 5 of Country and Western, pop, and Rhythm ‘n’ Blues charts simultaneously. As it was a breakthrough, the RIAA certified the track double platinum.

Elvis’s first performance of the song “Heartbreak Hotel” was during a live show—his Louisiana Hayride tour—in December 1955. However, the song gained a strong reputation after his appearance on Stage Show in March 1956. Presley’s hit became a staple of his repertoire in live appearances. The last time that he performed the song was on May 29, 1977. They heard him sing this at the Civic Center in Baltimore, Maryland.


Elvis Presley, heartbreak hotel

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