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Album: Elvis' 30 #1 HitsReleased: 1956Charted:
This was released as a single with "Hound Dog
." It is the only single in history to have both sides reach #1 in the US. Joel Whitburn, who writes the definitive books on the subject
, told the Forgotten Hits newsletter: "As far as the two-sided Presley hit 'Hound Dog" / "Don't Be Cruel,' I've always tabulated that single 45 as two #1 hits. 'Hound Dog' was the first title to chart and the first one to be listed as the lead #1 song. Billboard's 'Best Sellers in Stores' chart listed the the #1 song on 8/18/56 as 'Hound Dog/Don't Be Cruel.' It was also shown that way when it first topped the 'Most Played in Juke Boxes' chart on 9/1/56. There is absolutely no doubt that the initial sales and 'buzz' about this record was for 'Hound Dog.' It was a smash #1 hit right out of the box. As airplay began to favor 'Don't Be Cruel,' the two titles were flip-flopped at #1, with 'Don't Be Cruel' actually showing more weeks as the #1 lead song. Again, I have always tabulated these two titles as two #1 songs. There is no way you can consider this 4-times platinum record as one #1 hit. And, neither does RIAA who awards gold and platinum selling records. They show 'Hound Dog' / 'Don't Be Cruel' as both receiving platinum designations."
This was written by Otis Blackwell, a songwriter who came up with a lot of hits for Elvis. In addition to this, he also wrote "Return to Sender," "All Shook Up," and "One Broken Heart for Sale" for Elvis. He also wrote "Fever," which was made famous by Peggy Lee, and "Great Balls Of Fire" for Jerry Lee Lewis. Blackwell died in 2002 at age 70.
On Christmas Eve 1955, Otis Blackwell found himself on the streets in front of the Brill Building in New York City trying to stay warm. Things weren't going well for Blackwell - it was raining and there were leaks in the soles of his shoes. His friend Leroy Kirkland walked by and asked Otis if he had written any more songs. Otis said yes. Over the next week, he sold 6 of them to a publishing company for $25 each. Management at The Brill Building liked him so much they offered him a full-time job writing, and Blackwell accepted. Not long after, Otis got some very good news: This up-and-coming rock star wanted to record one of his songs. The deal was, the guy wanted half the writer's fee. Otis said, "No way I'm gonna give up half that song." His friends convinced him that half of something was better than all of nothing. Besides, this new singer just might "make it" and if he did, Otis' royalties would be tremendous. Over the next few days, Otis agreed. It wasn't Elvis who wanted half the "writer's fee." It was his manager, Colonel Tom Parker. The song became one of Elvis' biggest and longest running hits. (Thanks to the disc jockey, author and music historian Ron Foster.)
Cheap Trick covered this in 1988. Their version hit #4 in the US.
Elvis' bass player Bill Black released an instrumental version of this in 1960 which hit US #11.
This took only about 20 minutes to record.
The single was released in July 1956, but it did not appear on an album until the March 1958 release of Elvis' Golden Records.
This song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.