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Heartbreak Hotel

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(Axton / Durden / Presley)

Information:
While reading the Miami Herald one day in the fall of 1955, songwriter Tommy Durden spotted the headline “Do You Know This Man?” A photograph of a suicide victim accompanied the article. The man had left no identification, but did leave a note that read, “I walk a lonely street.” Miami police were running the article in the hope that the man’s next of kin or friends could identify him. Durden thought that the man’s suicide note might provide the basis for a great blues song. He excitedly called his collaborator, Mae Axton, and she agreed. The two of them wrote Heartbreak Hotel in about 15 to 20 minutes at Axton’s house. Mae Axton took her demo to Nashville for the annual disc jockey convention at the Andrew Jackson Hotel on November 10, 1955. After hearing the demo in his hotel room, Elvis was ecstatic. He promised Axton that he would record Heartbreak Hotel the next time he was in the recording studio. 

Elvis recorded Heartbreak Hotel on January 10, 1956, at RCA’s Nashville Studios. It was the second song he recorded for RCA; the first was I Got a Woman. Instrumental backing was provided by Scotty Moore (guitar), Chet Atkins (guitar), Floyd Cramer (piano), Bill Black (bass) and D.J. Fontana (drums). Gordon Stoker, Ben Speer and Brock Speer sang the backing vocals. Elvis’s first RCA new single, Heartbreak Hotel/I Was the One, was released on January 27, 1956. In April Heartbreak Hotel succeeded Les Baxter’s The Poor People of Paris as the nation’s number one song. After a seven-week stay at the top, it was replaced by Gogi Grant’s The Wayward Wind. Heartbreak Hotel was also number one at the Country Best-Seller chart (for 17 weeks), the Country Juke Box Chart (for 13 weeks), the Country Disc-Jockey Chart (for 12 weeks) and reached #5 on the rhythm and blues chart – the first Presley record to reach the latter chart. Heartbreak Hotel was Elvis’s first million-seller and the second record in history to reach all three Billboard charts. (The first was Carl Perkins’s Blue Suede Shoes). Total stay on the Top 100 chart was 27 weeks. Elvis sang Heartbreak Hotel on Stage Show (February 11, March 17 and March 24), The Milton Berle Show (April 3) and The Ed Sullivan Show (January 6, 1956). Billboard listed it as the number one single of 1956. Heartbreak Hotel was sung in the 1968 TV Special Elvis, and in the 1970 documentary Elvis – That’s The Way It Is.

 

In 1956 The Cadets recorded a cover version of Heartbreak Hotel for Modern Records (Modern 985). It was the first cover of an Elvis record by black performers. Other recordings of Heartbreak Hotel through the years include those by Star Fredberg (Capitol 3480), a 1956 parody; Roger Miller (Smash 2066) in 1966; Frijid Pink (Parrot 352) in 1970; and Willie Nelson and Leon Russell (Columbia 3-11023), who had a #1 country duet with the song in 1979.

Lyrics:

Well, since my baby left me, well, I found a new place to dwell
Well, it's down at the end of Lonely Street, that Heartbreak Hotel
Where I'll be, I'll be so lonely, baby, where I'm so lonely, I'll be so lonely I could die

1. Although it's always crowded, you still can find some room
For broken hearted lovers to cry there in the gloom
And be so lonely, baby, where they're so lonely, they're be so lonely they could die

Well, the Bell hop's tears keep flowin' and the desk clerk's dressed in black
Well they been so long on lonely street, they ain't ever gonna look back
Where they're so lonely, baby, they're so lonely, they're so lonely they're afraid to die


Well,  if your baby leaves you and you got a tale to tell
Well, just take a walk down Lonely Street t
o Heartbreak Hotel
Where you'll be so lonely, baby, you'll be so lonely you could die

1. (repeat)

Where it was released:
Released for the first time on single »
 

Singles:

- Heartbreak Hotel / I Was the One (RCA 20-6420) January 27, 1956. Standard 78 RPM release »

- Heartbreak Hotel / I Was the One (RCA 47-6420) January 27, 1956. Standard 45 RPM release »

- Heartbreak Hotel / I Was the One (RCA 447-0605) March 1959. Gold standard series reissue »

- Heartbreak Hotel / I Was the One (RCA PB-11105) October 1977. One of the 15 singles in the boxed set 15 Golden Records – 30 Golden Hits (RCA PP-11301), and one of the 10 singles in the boxed set 20 Golden Hits in Full Color Sleeves (RCA PP-11340), released two months later.

- Heartbreak Hotel / Jailhouse Rock (RCA PB-13892) October 1984. One of six singles in the boxed set Elvis’ Greatest Hits – Golden Singles, Volume 2 (RCA PP-13898). The single was pressed on gold vinyl and had a special gold “50th” anniversary label.

- Heartbreak Hotel (by Elvis) / Heartbreak Hotel (by David Keith and Charlie Schlatter with Zulu Time) (RCA 8760-7-R) October 1988. This single featured two cuts from the 1988 movie, Heartbreak Hotel.

 

EPs:

- Heartbreak Hotel (1956) »

- The Sound of Leadership (1956) »

 

LPs/CDs:

- Elvis' Golden Records (1958) »

- Elvis NBC TV Special (1968) »

- Worldwide 50 Gold Award Hits, Volume 1 (1970) »

- Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden (1972) »

- Elvis - A Legendary Performer, Volume 1 (1974) »

- Elvis Forever (1974) »

- Elvis - A Collectors Edition (1976) »
– Elvis' Golden Records (1977) »

- The Elvis Presley Story (1977) »

- Elvis: Memories (1978) »

- Elvis! His Greatest Hits (1979) »

- Elvis as Recorded at Madison Square Garden (1979) »

– Elvis Aron Presley (1980) »
– This Is Elvis (1981) »

– Elvis NBC TV Special (1981) »

– Rock'n'Roll Forever (1981) - Candlelite »

- The Collection, Volume One (1986)

- The Number One Hits (1987)

- The Top Ten Hits (1987)

- The Great Performances (1990)

- Collectors Gold (1991)

- The King of Rock’n’Roll – The Complete 50’s Masters (1992)

- The Essential Collection (1994)

- Gold - The Very Best of the King (1995)

- Walk a Mile in My Shoes – The Essential 70’s Masters (1995)

- Elvis 56 (1996)

- All Time Greatest Hits (1997)

- Platinum – A Life in Music (1997)

- Always Elvis – The Dutch Album (1997)

- An Afternoon in the Garden (1997)

- Elvis’ Greatest Jukebox Hits (1997)

- A Golden Celebration (1998)

- Memories: The ‘68 Comeback Special (1998)

- Tiger Man (1998)

- Elvis Aron Presley (1998)

- A Touch of Platinum, Volume 1 (1998)

- Elvis - The Concert (1999)

- All The Best (1999)

- Rock’n’Roll (1999)

- Artist of the Century (1999)

- Burbank '68 (1999) – FTD »

- The Swedish Hit Collection (2000)

- Best of the Artist of the Century (2000)

- Elvis 2000: Best of the King (2000)

- Live and Unplugged (2000) – Laserlight

- The 50 Greatest Hits (2000)

- That’s the Way it Is – Special Edition (2000)

- The Way It Was (2001) - FTD »

- The Live Greatest Hits (2001)

- The Best of Elvis Presley (2001)

- Greatest Hits (2001)

- Live in Las Vegas (2001)

- Elvis; Elvis is Back; Elvis Presley (2001)

- 50 Years 50 Hits (2001)

- Elvis 6363 Sunset (2001) - FTD »

- 55 Recorded Live at the Louisiana Hayride (2001)

- Today, Tomorrow and Forever (2002)

- Spring Tours ’77 (2002) - FTD »

- Elvis at the International (2002) - FTD »

- Elvis 30#1 Hits (2002)

- Close Up (2003)

- Live at the Lousiana Hayride (2003) - Dynamic

- Elvis 56, Remastered Edition (2003)

- Dragonheart (2003) – FTD »

- I Was the One (2003) - Janda

- Elvis 30# 1 Hits, Deluxe Edition (2003)

- Elvis Forever (2004)
- Flashback (2004) - FTD »

- Elvis by The Presleys (2005)

- Rockin' Across Texas (2005) - FTD »

- All Shook Up (2005) – FTD »

- Elvis NBC TV Special – The Vinyl Classics Edition (2005)

- Hitstory (2005)

- Summer Festival (2005) - FTD »

- Heartbreak Hotel – 50th Anniversary Single (2006)

- Southern Nights (2006) – FTD »

- Elvis Presley (2006) – FTD »

- Writing For the King (2006) - FTD »

- The Way It Was (2008) - FTD »

- America (2008) - FTD »

- Elvis in Person at the International Hotel, Las Vegas (2008) - FTD »

- Dixieland Delight (2009) - FTD »

- The Wonder of You (2009) »

- From Sunset to Las Vegas (2009) - FTD »

- Rockin' Across Texas (2009) - FTD »

- Elvis as Recorded at Boston Garden '71 (2010) - FTD »

– Live in Las Vegas (2011) - FTD »

- Fashion for a King (2011) - FTD »

– 3000 South Paradise Road (2012) - FTD »

– Hot August Night (2013) - FTD »

– The On Stage Season (2013) - FTD »

– Destination U.S.A. (2014) - FTD »

– Elvis (2014) - FTD »

– Love Me Tender (2014) - FTD »

- The Return to Vegas (2014) - FTD »

– In Florida (2014) - FTD »

- This is Elvis (2015) - FTD »

- Rock Around the Bloch (2015) - FTD »

- Elvis' Golden Records (2015) - FTD »

- Elvis in West Texas (2015) - FTD »

– NBC-TV Special (2016) - FTD »

- Taking Care of Business (2016) - FTD »

– Las Vegas '74 (2017) - FTD »

– Elvis at Madison Square Garden (2017) - FTD »

– Lake Tahoe '74 (2017) - FTD »

– Rebel With a Cause '56 (2018) - FTD »

What Now My Love (2018) - FTD »

For LP Fans Only (2018) - FTD »

 

Bootleg Releases:

- The King of Las Vegas Live (1973) - Hazbin / Wizardo Records

- Sold Out (1974) - E.P. Records

- The Hillbilly Cat “Live” (1974) - Brookville Records

- The King Goes Wild (1975) - Wilde Productions

- Dorsey Shows (1976) - Golden Archives Records

- From The Waist Up (1976) - Golden Archives

- Got a Lot O’ Livin’ To Do! (1976) - Pirate Records

- The Sun Years (1977) - Sun International Corp.

- Superstar Outtakes, Volume 2 (1977) - E.P. Records

- Elvis’ 1961 Hawaii Benefit Concert (1978) - Golden Archives Records

- Eternal Elvis, Volume 1 (1978) - no record label

- America’s Own (1979) - Geneva

- The Burbank Sessions, Volume 1 (1979) - Audifon Records

- The Burbank Sessions, Volume 2 (1979) - Audifon Records

- Cadillac Elvis (1979) - TCB Records

- That’s The Way It Is (1980) - Amiga Records

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