A news about the suicide of a lonely man who jumped from a hotel window inspired the lyrics of Elvis Presley’s “Heartbreak Hotel.” The track was released as a single on January 27, 1956. The song production was accompanied by equally awesome musicians – Elvis’ band, The Blue Moon Boys, Chet Atkins on the guitar, and Floyd Cramer on the keyboard. The track was recorded 17 days before its official release.
The Song’s Accolades
“Heartbreak Hotel” topped the Billboard for seven weeks. It dominated the Cashbox for six weeks and also peaked at number one on the Country and Western chart for seventeen weeks. The Recording Industry Association of America awarded the single a double platinum certification for its impressive selling records.
More to that, the track was also inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995. It is also listed on Rolling Stone’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time” and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll.”
The Writing of the Song
A high school teacher named Mae Boren Axton together with Jacksonville based singer/songwriter Tommy Durden wrote the song in 1955. The writers based the song on the real story of a man, who destroyed all his identity papers and jumped from a hotel window. The man left a suicide note with a single line, “I walked a lonely street.”
Presley first performed “Heartbreak Hotel” during one of his live shows in December 1955. The reception of the song appeared lukewarm until he sang it again on the Stage Show in March 1956. It was then called Presley’s “staple repertoire” in live appearances.
“Heartbreak Hotel” wasn’t supposed to be included on Presley’s album. However, on January 10, 1956, he arrived at the studio with the song ready to be recorded. Even without the RCA’s approval, he made sure the song will be released. The whole production had to cope with their new recording studio. They just came from Sun Studio. Through it all, they successfully came up with an excellent output.