Heartbreak Hotel

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Elvis Presley
“Heartbreak Hotel”

“It put him on the show business map and it altered pop culture forever”. Collins, A., 2005. Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis’s number 1’s. 1st ed. Chicago, Chicago Review Press, Incorporated.

The song, I believe, that key defines Elvis’ career is the song “Heartbreak Hotel”, a song written by Tommy Durden and Mae Axton. Mae Axton met Elvis in his hotel room in Nashville to show him the demo, then Elvis (allegedly) said “Hot darn Mae, play it again”, this clearly was a sign Elvis approved of this song. The reason I have chosen “Heartbreak Hotel” is because I feel that this song has so many different styles of music all combined into one whether it’s the stabs of the African American influence or even the low notes of Elvis’s ballad vocal line.

Elvis recorded “Heartbreak Hotel” in January 1956, at RCA Studio B in Nashville. This was his first session at RCA. Elvis used his own band. The style Elvis went for on this song was not so much the typical rockabilly or even country approach RCA were expecting but he’d reverted back to the blues and put that raw mournful emotion into this, his first session at RCA. The executives at RCA were less than impressed with this song. To them, it didn’t sound anything like his previous recordings with Sun Records.

Elvis appeared on Jimmy Dorsey’s CBS-TV’s prime time Stage Show. Elvis had never performed the song “Heartbreak Hotel” live before this television appearance. He barely finishes introducing his song before an ear-piercing scream soars through this once family friendly stage show. The success of the song “Heartbreak Hotel” was staggering, without even knowing it Elvis had changed the way music was advertised. The television appearance triggered tons of requests for “Heartbreak Hotel” in record stores and on radio. This led onto an even more important television appearance. He performed on a Milton Berle show (from the USS Hancock) later on that year with more than 25% of...
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