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Friday, January 22, 2010

100 Records That Shook The World, #87

Heartbreak Hotel
Elvis Presley

About time, wouldn't ya say? Finally the King gets to be on our countdown. The story behind El's first single for his new label, RCA, is a strange one. His legendary manager, Colonel Tom Parker, was the manager at the time of Hank Snow. A publicist for Snow, whose name was Mae Boren Axton, was also a teacher in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1955 she and songwriter Tommy Durden, a steel guitarist, wrote Heartbreak Hotel together in thirty minutes, so the story goes. They were sure they had a hit on their hands. How right they were. Durden evidently had been inspired to write the lyrics by the story of a young man who had committed suicide and left a note containing the line 'I walk a lonely street'.

In November 1955 they met Presley and asked him to record it as his first RCA single, so sure were they of the song's hit potential. They agreed to give him a third of the writing credit. He first performed it a month later, proclaiming it as his 'first hit'. He recorded it in January, and, well, you know the rest. In less than two months after its February release, it had reached #1 on both the Billboard Pop and C&W chart. Not bad for a country hick from Tupelo, Mississippi.

Here's the King.

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