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Leaving Sun Records and joining RCA Victor major move by Elvis
January 04, 2016  -  Barry Levine / Elvis Express Radio
Welcome to the year 2016 and welcome to 1956, one of the most important years in modern rock ‘n’ roll history.

It was 60 years ago when the foundation of rock ‘n’ roll became established as a 21-year-old native of Mississippi stunned the music world with his singing style and flamboyance.

That performer, Elvis Presley, would have been 81 on Jan. 8 had he not died in 1977.

At the beginning of 1956, Presley’s popularity was limited to the South. In fact, he did not have his first major hit until the spring of 1956 when
“Heartbreak Hotel” rose to No. 1 on
April 21st.

After purchasing his contract from Sun Records in November 1955, Elvis signed with RCA Victor and that’s when his career flourished. On January 10th and 11th, 1956, he
recorded five songs for RCA Victor, one off which was
“Heartbreak Hotel.”

Mae Axton wrote the song specifically for Elvis. Axton got the idea for the song from a front page newspaper story about a suicide victim who wrote a one-line note saying, “I walk a
lonely street.” Axton suggested that they put as “Heartbreak Hotel” on the end of lonely street.

Less than a half-hour later, “Heartbreak Hotel” was written and recorded on tape (EER Adds: performed by Glenn Reeves). Elvis then heard the song over and over again until he
finally decided to record it. (EER Adds: Elvis would perform 'Heartbreak Hotel' during concerts towards the end of 1955, before recording it in January '56). The studio recording
was released on January 27th 1956.

On April 3, he performed
“Heartbreak Hotel” on NBC’s “Milton Berle Show.” Eighteen days later, “Heartbreak Hotel” supplanted Les Baxter’s instrumental “The Poor People of
Paris” at No. 1. Presley’s hit remained in the top slot for eight weeks until replaced by “The Wayward Wind” by Gogi Grant on June 16.

“Heartbreak Hotel” became Presley’s first million seller and Billboard magazine named it the top song of the year. The song was only the beginning of Presley’s breakout year.

He had his second No. 1 hit of the year when
“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” climbed to the top of the charts on July 28. The song was released in May and Elvis
performed it on the Milton Berle Show on June 6.

The song became Presley’s second gold record, selling 1.3 million copies.

“I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was bounced from the top spot after one week when The Platters’ “My Prayer” reached No. 1. “My Prayer” remained at the top for two
weeks before Elvis regained the No. 1 ranking with the two-sided hit
”Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel.”

“Hound Dog”/”Don’t Be Cruel”
remained No. 1 for a record 11 weeks. The mark was finally shattered in 1992 by Boyz II Men’s “End of the Road,” which was No. 1 for 13 weeks.

“Don’t Be Cruel” was written by Otis Blackwell, one of the greatest R&B songwriters of all time. He had a bevy of major hits including “Fever” by Little Willie John and then Peggy
Lee, “Great Balls of Fire” and “Breathless” by Jerry Lee Lewis, “Hey Little Girl” by Dee Clark, “Handy Man” by Jimmy Jones and a host of other Presley hits including
“All Shook
and “Return to Sender.”

“Hound Dog”
was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 12 minutes and was first recorded by Big Mama Thornton in 1952. Thornton’s version remained No. 1 on the R&B
charts for seven weeks and sold approximately 750,000 copies.

Leiber and Stoller were among the most successful song writing teams in rock history. Besides
“Hound Dog,” they penned “Jailhouse Rock,” Don’t,” “Loving You” and “King
for Presley, “Young Blood,” “Searchin’ ” and “Yakety Yak” for The Coasters and “There Goes My Baby” for The Drifters.

Presley’s dual No 1 hits of "
Don’t Be Cruel” and “Hound Dog” sold more than 10 million copies.

His fifth No. 1 song of 1956 was the ballad
“Love Me Tender” from the movie of the same name in which Presley starred.

"Love Me Tender" replaced “Don’t Be Cruel”/”Hound Dog” for its five-week run at No. 1 on Nov. 3. Guy Mitchell’s “Singing the Blues” stopped Elvis’ run at No. 1 on Dec. 8.

Presley held the top spot in 1956 for an incredible 25 weeks.

While Presley dominated the charts in 1956, the year also was the beginning of his acceptance by this country’s adult population, a key to his future successes.

Sony Music celebrates this 60th year of Elvis signing for RCA Records by releasing a 60 CD box set featuring every recording released on album by RCA during Elvis' lifetime and
will be set for a March release.