Registration with

register

lost password recovery

recover my password

sign in

  • If you registered before August, 2014, you will need to register again. Sorry for the inconvenience.
  • remember me
sign in

Suggest a Songfact / Artistfact

Sign up for our newsletter

Get the Newsletter

Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley

Album: Elvis' 30 #1 HitsReleased: 1956Charted:
1
2
  • The lyrics were written by a steel guitar player from Nashville named Tommy Durden, who was once a dishwasher repairman. He was inspired by a newspaper story about a man who killed himself and left behind a note saying only, "I walk a lonely street." Another Nashville songwriter named Mae Boren Axton wrote the music, and Elvis' manager Tom Parker arranged for Elvis to receive a songwriting credit in exchange for singing it. This meant that royalties were split between Durden, Axton, and Elvis. In a 1982 interview, Durden said this song "has paid the rent for more than 20 years."
  • Mae Axton was living in Jacksonville when this was written. She got a local Country singer to do the demo for Elvis, who did the demo the way he thought Elvis would do it. Elvis liked it, and did it exactly that way. By the way, the Country singer didn't care for Elvis and thought that "the boy wouldn't go far." (thanks, Barbara - Jacksonville, FL)
  • Nashville guitar legend Chet Atkins played on this. Atkins died of cancer in 2001 at age 77.
  • This became a hit after Elvis performed it on The Dorsey Brothers TV show in 1956. It was his third appearance on the show.
  • This was Elvis' first #1 hit on the US Billboard pop charts.
  • Elvis first performed this song live in December 1955, telling club owner Rob King, "This is gonna be my first hit."
  • This reportedly caused widespread panic among RCA executives when they heard it. "They all told me it didn't sound like anything, it didn't sound like his other records and I'd better not release it, better go back and record it again," producer Steve Sholes later stated.
  • Grammy winner Floyd Cramer played piano on this track.
  • This earned Elvis his first gold record, given for sales of over 1 million.
  • On The Milton Berle Show, Berle presented Elvis with 2 Billboard "Triple Crown" awards for simultaneously reaching #1 on all 6 of their Pop and Country charts with this song. This also reached the top 5 on the R&B charts.
  • This was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995.
  • Bill Clinton's first US presidential campaign received a much-needed boost when he played this on the saxophone as a guest on The Arsenio Hall Show. During that campaign against the first George Bush, Clinton said, "You know, Bush is always comparing me to Elvis in sort of unflattering ways. I don't think Bush would have liked Elvis very much, and that's just another thing that's wrong with him." (thanks to Eileen for her help with these)
  • Lynyrd Skynyrd released an acoustic version on their album Endangered Species. In a low-budget arthouse movie called Grutzi Elvis, Clash singer Joe Strummer did soundtrack work for the film, and recorded two cover versions of the song - a Cajun style acoustic version with German session musicians, and a more rocking version rumored to be an out-take from recording sessions from the Clash. He also regularly covered the song with his pre-Clash band, the 101ers.
or Register to post comments

Comments: 32

On June 3rd 1955, Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly were signing autographs at a promotional appearance at the John-Connelley Pontiac dealership in Lubbock, Texas...
Exactly one year later on June 3rd, 1956 Elvis would have six records on Billboard's Top 100 on this date, with "Heartbreak Hotel" being in its 7th week as the #1 record...
And two years later on the first week of August 1957 "That's Be The Day" by the Crickets entered the Top 100 chart...
R.I.P. to Mr. Holley (1936 -1959) and to The King (1935 - 1977).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On January 28th 1956, Elvis performed "Heartbreak Hotel" and "Blue Suede Shoes" on the CBS-TV program 'The Dorsey Brothers Stage Show'...
It was his debut on national TV and four weeks later on February 26th "Heartbreak Hotel" entered Billboard's Top 100...
And on the very same day that "Heartbreak Hotel" entered the Top 100 so did the original version of "Blue Suede Shoes" by Carl Perkins (it reached #2 for 4 weeks on the Top 100).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On January 6th 1957, Elvis Presley performed "Heartbreak Hotel" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
Ten months earlier on February 26th, 1956 it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart; eventually it peaked at #1 (for 8 weeks) and spent over a half year on the Top 100 (27 weeks)...
It did even better on the country chart; on March 1st, 1956 it reached #1 (for an amazing 17 weeks) on Billboard's Best Selling Country chart...
And it took Elvis himself to knock it out off the top spot, his "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" did the trick...
This appearance on Sullivan was the famous 'shot above the waist' show...
R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974) and to The King (1935 - 1977).
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
The last week that 'Rock Around the Clock' was No. 1 was the week of August 27th, 1955. It would then take 33 weeks before another rock 'n roll record would reach No.1 and it was Elvis who would do it. His "Heartbreak Hotel" made No. 1 on April 21st, 1956 {After that the next rock song to reached #1 was "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You", then came "Don't Be Cruel"; you get the drift!!!}Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On March 3rd, 1956 "Lisbon Antigua" by Nelson Riddle became the #1 record in the USA; but way down the chart a new record spent it's 1st week in the Top 100, that record was "Heartbreak Hotel", and as they say 'The rest is history!!!'...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
According to Billboard's Year-End chart for the Top 100 Songs of 1956; Heartbreak Hotel was the Number One Record for the year of 1956. Elvis also had the #2 record {Don't Be Cruel}, the #8 record {Hound dog} and the #15 record {All Shook Up}!!! Copy & paste: http://www.musicoutfitters.com/topsongs/1956.htmBarry - Sauquoit, Ny
this song will always be special to me. i never tire of hearing it. even people who don't particularly like elvis sing along when they hear it.great song, fantastic lyrics sung to perfection.heartbreak hotel started it all. the rest is history. long live the king!!!!Michael - Eastleigh, United Kingdom
Reached No. 1 on Billboard's Top 100 on May 5th, 1956 and stayed there for 7 weeks, was preceded by "The Poor People of Paris" by Les Baxter and succeeded by "The Wayward Wind" by Gogi Grant...Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
On Sunday night in 1956 Ed Sullivan & Steven Allen had TV shows opposite of each other at the same time {8 PM EST}. On one of those Sundays Elvis was on one show and Guy Mitchel was on the other. I remember running between our apartment and our tenants because I didn't want to miss either Elvis singing 'Heartbreak Hotel' or Guy's 'Singing The Blues' {which was the number one record at the time} And wouldn't you know it, they both performed at exactly the same time, so I only got yo see half of each act!!!Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
A few years ago, MTV had a series named "Unplugged", seems as though the new generation could not show up on this show because their appeal was plugged in. Elvis was always unplugged and only had his voice. Which was unforgettable. Damn he will always be missed.Rex - Urbana, Il
I didn't know it's about a Suicide letter.Fonzie did perform this at Arnolds,but he didn't sing it only spoke it.He said,I hope it is one of your favorites,because it sure ain't mine.I love Heartbreak Hotel,1st one is Suspicious Minds.Jennifer Harris - Grand Blanc, Mi
Heartbreak Hotel is a classic.it's a blusey kind of rocker that's taken at a slower pace and proves that rock songs don't have to be done at a fast pace or beat to be effective.this song creates a mood and there is nobody around who can sing a song this way.Elvis' unique style shines on this number.George - Belleville, Nj
Elvis was a great performer and great singer. Most of the people I listen to write there own songs, but I enjoy listening to great singers, and Elvis was one of those. Hey, not all good songwriters are good singers and vice versa.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Not only was Elvis a great erformer, he was reat singer oo.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Actually Rick, I think Elvis does sing "They pray to Die" instead of "They could die" in one f the verses.Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Actually, Richard I thikn Elvis does ing "pray o ie" n ne f he verses. In he others, he says "they could ie."Stefanie - Rock Hill, Sc
Catherine: Lawrence Olivier, Marilyn Monroe and many other great actors never wrote or directed their own films. Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald and scores of other vocalists never wrote their own songs. Millions of conductors and classical musicians have well-deserved reputations gained only from playing other people's compositions. Some people were put on this planet to PERFORM. If you appreciate this, why criticise Presley? If you don't, then that's your loss. I happen to think that the Beatles were not "that amazing", but I'm big enough to admit that millions of Beatle fans appreciate something I don't.
Incidentally, Heartbreak Hotel's origin lyrics were changed slightly at the recording session (Jan 10-11, 1956): "They'll be so lonely they could die" replaced "They'll be so lonely they pray to die".
- Rik, London, England
Richard - London, England
Elvis is a legend! This is one of my favorite songs from him!Caitlin - Upper Township, Nj
Mae Axton was the mother of Hoyt Axton song writer "Never Been To Spain" etc. actor and country music singer who passed away about 10 years ago.Alan - Grande Prairie, Alberta, Canada
Heartbreak Hotel was "sung" by Fonzie in the Happy Days episode where the guys wanted Fonzie to sing at the senior dance. Henry Winkler actually didn't sing, he spoke the lyrics since he wasn't much of a singer.Howard - St. Louis Park, Mn
Cathrine. I get your point, but I gotta agree with Kelly from California. without elvis's music, the beatles wouldn't have made the type of music they did. I think people like Elvis, Buddy holly, and Chuck berry were the Beatles primary influences.Stefanie Magura - Rock Hill, Sc
Jim Reeves mentions 'Heartbreak Hotel' in his 1962 country hit Blue Side Of Lonesome.Wayne - Fort Atkinson, Wi
This is #45 in Rolling Stone's list of 500 greatest songs.Ross - Independence, Mo
Man, never heard about Elvis being indimated by the Beatles!! I see no reason why Elvis should have been indimidated... both Elvis and Beatles have their own places in the world of music, and both were great. Well, I love the Beatles, one of the most amazing bands in the world, and I just love some of their songs (Imagine by Lennon is my all time favorite). But I have to say I love Elvis songs more, and i think elvis was a better vocalist than lennon or mcartney. but, considering elvis hardly wrote any of his songs, i hold the beatles and elvis to be in the same level...Adnan - Houston, Tx
This song always reminds me of Soinal Tap; the part of the film where they visit Elvis' grave. They try to sing 'Heartbreak Hotel' with the harmony parts but declare "it sounds too f***in ragga!"Tom - Trowbridge, England
To the contrary Cathrine, even if Elvis was afraid of The Beatles, Elvis inspired them more then anyone can say. When The Beatles finally got to meet Elvis, their idol for all these years, he was fat and pretty much a has-been. But when they walked through the door to Elvis' house John walked right up to him and said, "Before you there was nothing." I don't think Elvis was overrated, he was quite talented. But think what you want, AND The Beatles are the most awesome band of all time.Kelly - Burbank, Ca
Elvis is so incrediablly overrated it's not true. He wasn't that amazing people. He didn't even write his songs himself and he was terrified of the Beatles. Rightly so.Catherine - Glasgow, England
I was 15 when this song came out, and I still remember the incredible physical sensation I felt all over my body every time I heard it. After a steady diet of songs like "Love and Marriage," "Mockingbird Hill," and "Mr. Sandman," this song was a powerful paradigm shift for kids my age. The dark lyrics, the slow driving rhythm, the pain in Elvis' voice, all combined to hypnotize me. It gave me a highly pleasurable, sexy feeling in my groin. It must have been what the kids felt like in 1900 when they first heard ragtime. It's amazing how music can make you feel!Ted - Camarillo, Ca
Tommy Durden wrote the song (solely) as a ballad.
Mae Axton's contribution told the songwriter/
guitar/singer-----more or less---that if he were
willing to change it a little, she thought she
knew just the right singer for the song. Tommy
agreed. Mae introduced him to someone who changed it from the original ballad tune to a
rock-n-roll tune.
The rest-----is as we say-----history.
(Oh, by the way. Tommy told his father (who was a "doubting Thomas" & had told Tommy to "get a
job") that he had written a hit & when it sold
he was going to show up in his (the father's)
front yard in a "pea-green" Cadallac.
GUESS WHAT?
He showed up in his father's front yard in------
Yep! A "pea-green" Cadallac.
True story.
Ask any old time Gainesville-ite.
(I'm only a transplanted one.)
Check it out, if you don't beleive me.
Wilma - Gainesville, Fl
Considering that this is the song that really introduced rock to the mainstream (ie white) public, it's amazing how dark the lyrics really are ("The bell hop's tears keep flowing, the bell hop's dressed in black..."). Compare this to songs that got banned during the sixties. I guess everyone was so mesmerized by this fascinating new sound that they weren't paying attention to the lyrics.Brett - Edmonton, Canada
This was Elvis's first recording for RCA Victor after leaving Sun Records.Dede - Chapel Hill, Nc
The song was written for Elvis by Tommy Durden and school teacher/songwriter and publicist - Mae Boren Axton (Hoyt Axton's mother. They wrote the song in 22-minutes after reading a front-page story in the Miami Herald about a suicide victim who'd left a one-line note that read "I walk a lonely street."Jeff - Boston, Ma