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#ThrowbackThursday: “Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley

“Heartbreak Hotel” by Elvis Presley topped both the Billboard Top 100 chart and the Billboard Country & Western chart after its 1956 release.

by Sean Smith

On this day (January 8th) in 1935 the King of Rock and Roll, Elvis Presley, was born in Tupelo, Mississippi. He would have turned 80 years old this year. In honor of this milestone Legacy Recordings has released The Complete ’60s Albums Collection Vol. 1 on iTunes. This new offering bundles all of the LP’s recorded by Elvis from 1960 to 1965 and makes them available to fans in a remastered digital version. Also, a new website has gone live today that is setup to be a one-stop shop for all things Elvis.

There is no questioning the legendary status that the late Elvis Presley holds in American music and culture. His fusion of country and rythm and blues was pioneering, and one of the many reasons why he is the best-selling solo artist in the history of music. The only musical act that has sold more records than Elvis is the iconic British foursome The Beatles. So in honor of what would be Elvis Presley’s 80th birthday, this week on #tbt we are going to take a look back at his 1956 hit single “Heartbreak Hotel”.

Elvis Presley started his musical career in 1954 in Memphis, Tennessee recording for a local label Sun Records owned by Sam Phillips. He soon became a regional star in the South and had a number of national labels interested in acquiring his services. In November of 1955, Sam Phillips sold the recording contract he had with Elvis to RCA Victor for $40,000. Looking back at it now, it may look like Phillips was at the losing end of the deal he made by selling his rights to Elvis’ recording contract. However, that’s not really the case. Sam Phillips took that $40,000 he made on the deal and invested it in a local Memphis hotel chain called Holiday Hotel. That investment proved to be a good one for Phillips as that small hotel chain later became the well known and very successful national hotel chain Holiday Inn.

Elvis Presley had his first recording session with his new label RCA Victor in January of 1956. The second song he recorded during that session was “Heartbreak Hotel”. The song was originally written by Mae Boren Axton and Thomas Durden in 1955. The idea for the song came from an article that Durden had read in The Miami Herald newspaper in Miami, Florida that detailed the story of a man who had jumped to his death from a hotel window leaving a suicide note that simply read “I walk a lonely street.” The story goes that Axton told Durden, “Let’s put a Heartbreak Hotel at the end of this lonely street.” The duo of Axton and Durden then pitched the song to Elvis who upon hearing the demo of the song that the two had recorded decided that it would be his first single on his new label. “Heartbreak Hotel” was in fact his first single released on his new label and it did extremely well commercially. It topped the Billboard Top 100 chart for seven weeks, topped the Billboard Country and Western Chart, and also peaked at number five position on the Billboard Rhythm & Blues chart; becoming only the second single in history behind Carl Perkins’ “Blue Suede Shoes” to make it onto all three Billboard charts.

So in light of today being the 80th anniversary of Elvis Presley’s birth, this week we remember the King of Rock and Roll’s 1956 hit single “Heartbreak Hotel”. Enjoy!

Elvis Presley

“Heartbreak Hotel”

RCA Victor