Elvis Presley gets his first No.1 in 1956 with “Heartbreak Hotel”

63 years ago today The King ruled the charts for the first time

Elvis Presley gets his first No.1 in 1956 with “Heartbreak Hotel”

One of Elvis Presley’s absolute classics, the single “Heartbreak Hotel” was his first released on RCA on January 27, 1956, right after leaving Sun Records. The song was written in 1955, by Mae Boren Axton, a high school teacher with a background in musical promotion, and Jacksonville based singer-songwriter Tommy Durden. The lyrics were based on a report supposedly in The Miami Herald about a man who had destroyed all his identity papers and jumped to his death from a hotel window, leaving a suicide note with the single line, “I walk a lonely street”, however, in 2016, an article in Rolling Stone magazine suggested that the story, in reality, originated from a report about a painter and petty criminal, Alvin Krolik, whose marriage had failed and who wrote a partial autobiography including the line “This is the story of a person who walked a lonely street.” Krolik’s story was published in news media and received further publicity after he was shot and killed in an attempted robbery in El Paso, Texas. On August 25, 1955, the El Paso Times reported Krolik’s death under the headline “Story Of Person Who Walked Lonely Street” The songwriter Axton, approached the popular singing duo the Wilburn Brothers, and offered them the chance to record “Heartbreak Hotel”. However, Doyle and Teddy Wilburn declined, describing the song as “strange and almost morbid”. She then arranged through Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker to present the song to Presley at the annual Country Music Disc Jockey Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was to be named the most promising male country star of 1955. Upon its release in 1956, “Heartbreak Hotel” reached number one on Billboard Pop Chart over a two month period. By April, “Heartbreak Hotel” became a million-seller, earning Presley his first RIAA-certified gold record, and going on to be the biggest selling single of 1956. The single reached No.1 on May 5, 1956, earning Presley his first ever No.1. Ît was also the first international hit for Elvis. Several successful Rock musicians have mentioned the importance and influence of the song on them, such as George Harrison, Robert Plant, and Keith Richards; it’s one of the most covered songs not only in Rock music but on other genres too, including country. In 1995 “Heartbreak Hotel” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Watch Elvis Presley performing “Heartbreak Hotel” in 1956



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