Don't Be Cruel

Album: Elvis' 30 #1 Hits (1956)
Charted: 24 1
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  • One of Elvis Presley's most famous songs, "Don't Be Cruel" is a heartache/love song that doesn't take itself too seriously. It starts out with Elvis begging the girl to at least call him on the phone if she's going to leave him home alone. By the end of the song, he's proposing marriage, insisting he'll love her forever. Because he loves her dearly, he feels he's entitled to her affections. "Don't be cruel to who a heart that's true," he tells her.
  • This was written by Otis Blackwell, a songwriter who came up with a lot of hits for Elvis. In addition to "Don't Be Cruel," 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. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Gary - Thetford, England
  • 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 and sell some songs. 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 songs. Otis said yes, and over the next week, he sold six of them, including "Don't Be Cruel," to the publishing company Shalimar Music for $25 each.

    Blackwell recorded demos of these songs and Shalimar pitched them to Elvis. On July 2, 1956, Elvis recorded "Hound Dog" at RCA Studios in New York City. They needed a flip side to the single, so Elvis and his team listened to some demos in the studio. When they came across "Don't Be Cruel," Elvis decided they should record it. He and the band spent about 20 minutes learning the song, then recorded it, with Presley hewing closely to Blackwell's demo. When they were done, it was clear "Don't Be Cruel" deserved better than B-side status, so they released it as an A-side with "Hound Dog."

    Presley wasn't super-famous yet, but already had two #1 hits: "Heartbreak Hotel" and "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You." For Blackwell, it was a huge payday because he earned royalties from the song, although he had to split them with Elvis, whose manager, Colonel Tom Parker, insisted that Elvis get half the publishing on any song he recorded.
  • "Don't Be Cruel" 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 #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."
  • Three very different cover versions of "Don't Be Cruel" charted in the US:

    Elvis' bass player Bill Black released an instrumental version in 1960 that hit #11.

    The R&B singer Barbara Lynn released a laid-back, horn-inflected version in 1963 that went to #93.

    The rock band Cheap Trick went to #4 with their 1988 cover.
  • The single was released on July 13, 1956, just 11 days after it was recorded. It took just a month to reach #1 in America, topping the chart on August 18. This was a spectacular rise at a time when nationwide distribution was slow, and a signal that Elvis was going to be a sensation. Indeed, for the rest of 1956, Elvis songs were all over the radio and he made numerous TV appearances, doing all the big variety shows. He even made his first movie that year: Love Me Tender.
  • This song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2002.
  • The Judds, with backing from The Jordanaires, covered this on their 1987 Heartland album. Their version peaked at #10 on the Country chart.

Comments: 16

  • Raminjapan from Tokyo JapanI just heard on NHK radio some cool stuff about Don’t be Cruel. The bass in the intro never appears again. The piano and background singers continue throughout. There is a simple beat that continues throughout…that is someone tapping on a guitar case with his hand. At the very end is the lonely chord struck just that once. The guy who struck it was having a smoke waiting for his time.
  • Mick from ArkansasThis was his mother's favorite song of his.

    Blackwell also wrote "Paralyzed" for Elvis. It's a really good song, reaching the top 10 in the UK. On the recording Elvis played the guitar and the piano. Check it out if you've never heard it.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyPer: {12-13-2018}...
    Tenor and Alto Saxophonist John 'Ace' Cannon, best remembered for his 1962 hit, “Tuff” (#17), died December 6th, 2018 at his home in Calhoun City, Mississippi at the age of 84...
    He played session sax at Sun Records in Memphis before hooking up as part of Bill Black’s Combo at Hi Records there-- heard on such hits as “Smokie” (#17), “White Silver Sands” (#9) and “Don’t Be Cruel” (#11)— all in 1960...
    With Bill’s blessing he embarked on a solo career in 1961 with “Tuff” (that included Bill’s Combo), but its follow-up, “Blues Stay Away From Me” (#36-1962) proved to be his only other top 40 record, though he continued performing regularly into the ‘70s and occasionally until his death. Ace was inducted into both the Rock and Soul Hall of Fame and the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2000..
    May he R.I.P..
  • Oto from SlovakiaThis song is good, but Elvis is overated... Everybody loves him, but no one listen to him...
  • Jennifur Sun from RamonaCalum, I think the songwriter wrote it in 20 minutes.
  • Uli from Boston,maBruc - Hawaii

    I have that movie one of my favorites its called " Mischief " from 1985.
  • Bruc from HawaiiDoes anyone know the name of the movie?? I watched this movie a couple years ago that had "don't be cruel" in it. It's sort of like the movie "rebel without a cause." This rebel and nerd become friends and get picked on by preppy kids. The rebel ends up with the girl. At the end of the movie, the nerd rams his far into the preppy kids car for revenge. Anyone know the film???
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 22nd 1963, Barbara Lynn performed "Don't Be Cruel" on the ABC-TV program 'American Bandstand'...
    One month later on February 17th it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart for a four week stay, peaking at position #93...
    The year before on August 29th, 1962 she reached #1 (for 3 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart with "You'll Lose A Good Thing"...
    R.I.P. to The King (1935 - 1977) and Ms. Lynn, born Barbara Lynn Ozen, celebrated her 72nd birthday six days ago on January 16th (2014).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn January 6th 1957, Elvis Presley performed "Don't Be Cruel" on the CBS-TV program 'The Ed Sullivan Show'...
    Six months earlier on July 28th, 1956 along with the flip-side, "Hound Dog", it entered Billboard's Top 100 chart...
    In a combination of both sides it was #1 for eleven weeks and spent over a half-year on the Top 100 (28 weeks)...
    This was the famous 'shot above the waist' appearance on the Sullivan show...
    R.I.P. Mr. Sullivan (1901 - 1974) and to The King (1935 - 1977).
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyEven though "Don't Be Cruel/HoundDog" stayed at #1 for eleven weeks in 1956, it was not the Number One Record for year. But I don't think Elvis was disappointed, his "Heartbreak Hotel" was the Number One Record of 1956!!!
  • George from Belleville, NjOne of Elvis' great hits of the 50's.A really good pop rock song,it has a nice melody,a smooth sounding song.
  • Barry from Sauquoit, NyOn Billboard'S Top 100 number one-singles chart this song became No. 1 on Sept. 15th, 1956. it was preceded by "My Prayer" by The Platters and by succeeded by "Green Door" by Jim Lowe
  • Pierre from Chelsea, Quebec, CanadaThe very first 45 record I got in my "library", a gift from my mother Maizy Lee, curious to hear the guy she had seen on TV, black and white, of course, with tons of snow ! Ah ! The Elvis of the fifties ! Shame on that stupd colonel Parker, the infamous manager who killed the real talent in that wonderful R'n'R singer.
  • Charles from Minneapolis, United StatesI heard Hound Dog was take 28 of 30 and Dont Be Cruel was 7 of 8. Maybe they did 7 takes in about 20 minutes? Or maybe 20 minutes of actual recording time?
  • Calum from Edinburgh, ScotlandI don't see how this song was recorded in 20 minutes (see above) if it took 28 takes! P.S. I think 28 takes is right, 20 minutes probably wrong :-)
  • Jeff from Boston, Ma"Elvis' 1st self-produced single, creating a new popstyle for himself, a kind of offhand, almost casual feel that he achieved only after pushing the band and himself through 28 takes!

    It was his favorite of his earlier hits.
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