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|HEARTBREAK HOTEL 60 YEARS AGO TODAY
January 27, 2016 Associated Press / Elvis Express Radio
Today, January 27, marks the 60th anniversary of the release of “Heartbreak Hotel,” which became Elvis Presley’s first #1 hit on the Billboard pop singles chart. The song was
among the first tracks Presley recorded for RCA Records after the label purchased his contract from Sun Records.
“Heartbreak Hotel” was written in 1955 by Mae Boren Axton — mother of singer/songwriter Hoyt Axton — and Tommy Durden, inspired by a newspaper story about a man who’d
committed suicide and left a note that read, “I walk a lonely street.” According to The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits, Axton had handled public relations for Col. Tom Parker in
Florida, and when Parker became Elvis’ manager, Mae promised the singer that she would write him a million-selling single. After “Heartbreak Hotel” was written, Axton arranged to
meet Presley in Nashville to hear a demo of the song and ended playing it for him 10 times.
In the weeks following the single’s release, Elvis performed the tune several times on Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey’s CBS variety series Stage Show. Then, in April of 1956, Presley
sang the song on the hugely popular NBC program The Milton Berle Show. The single hit #1 on the Billboard chart on April 21, and remained atop the tally for eight weeks. It also
reached #1 on Billboard’s Country and Western singles chart and made it into the top five of the magazine’s R&B chart. It was Billboard’s top overall single for 1956, and has gone
on to sell more than 2 million copies in the U.S. alone.