Words & music by Mae B. Axton - Tommy Durden - Elvis Presley) Recorded by Elvis in Nashville January 1956
Heartbreak Hotel Songfacts
In February of 1956 Elvis recorded his first five songs for RCA. Among these was Heartbreak Hotel, which quickly rose to the top of the charts to become Elvis' first Number 1 hit.
The lyrics were written by a steel guitar player from Nashville named Tommy Durden. He was inspired by a newspaper story about a man who killed himself and left behind a note saying only, "I walk a lonely street." Another Nashville songwriter named Mae Boren Axton wrote the music, and Elvis' manager Tom Parker arranged for Elvis to receive a songwriting credit in exchange for singing it. This meant that royalties were split between Durden, Axton, and Elvis. In a 1982 interview, Durden said this song "has paid the rent for more than 20 years."
Mae Axton was living in Jacksonville when this was written. She got a local Country singer to do the demo for Elvis, who did the demo the way he thought Elvis would do it. Elvis liked it, and did it exactly that way. By the way, the country singer didn't care for Elvis and thought that "the boy wouldn't go far." (Thanks, Barbara - Jacksonville, FL)
Nashville guitar legend Chet Atkins played on this. Atkins died of cancer in 2001 at age 77.
This became a hit after Elvis performed it on The Dorsey Brothers TV show in 1956. It was his third appearance on the show.
This was Elvis' first #1 hit on the US Billboard pop charts.
Elvis first performed this song live in December 1955, telling club owner Rob King, "This is gonna be my first hit." This reportedly caused widespread panic among RCA executives when they heard it. "They all told me it didn't sound like anything, it didn't sound like his other records and I'd better not release it, better go back and record it again,"producer Steve Sholes later stated.
Grammy winner Floyd Cramer played piano on this track.
This earned Elvis his first gold record, given for sales of over 1 million.
On The Milton Berle Show, Berle presented Elvis with 2 Billboard "Triple Crown" awards for simultaneously reaching #1 on all 6 of their Pop and Country charts with this song. This also reached the top 5 on the R&B charts.
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