Opening the Vault: Heartbreak Hotel
If there was a good day to be a fly on the wall in the Andrew Jackson Hotel – it was November 10, 1955. On this date, 56 years ago, Elvis Presley heard the demo tape for the song “Heartbreak Hotel” for the first time. Elvis, who was just about to have his contract sold by Sun Records to RCA, heard the song while he was in town for the Country Music Disc Jockey Convention. After being presented to him by songwriters Mae Boren Axton and Thomas Durden, Presley excitingly asked for it to be played again and agreed to record the tune. After being recorded for RCA in January of 1956 it would go on to become Elvis’ first #1 single on his self-titled debut album.
“Heartbreak Hotel,” of course, is one of the most significant songs in music history. It would help set Elvis on his path to becoming an international music icon and inspired countless rock ‘n roll bands. Whether it was Bill Black’s methodic standup bass strumming, Scotty Moore’s wicked guitar chords, Elvis’ killer vocals, or the magic in the studio, music was never the same after “Heartbreak Hotel” was released.
Here’s a clip from Elvis’ Comeback Special on December 2, 1968 that was broadcast on NBC. Even though there’s a bit of stumbling throughout the take, his first charge through the song is so incredibly powerful.