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Intro

When Elvis picked this song to record as his first single with RCA, the company was horrified. It's a melancholy tune about being lonely – and how was that supposed to sell records? Lucky for RCA, Elvis stood his ground, and the record sold more than a million copies. It was the first in a long string of #1 hits.

Why did Elvis choose to sing this song, and how did he make it great? Keep reading to get the scoop.

About the Song

ArtistElvis Presley Musician(s)Elvis Presley (vocals, guitar); Scotty Moore (guitar); Bill Black (bass); D.J. Fontana (drums); Chet Atkins (guitar); Floyd Cramer (piano); Ben Speer, Brock Speer, and Gordon Stoker (backup vocals)
Album"Heartbreak Hotel" (single)
Year1956
LabelRCA
Writer(s)Mae Boren Axton, Thomas Durden, Elvis Presley
Producer(s)Steve Sholes
Learn to play: Tablature
Buy this song: Amazon iTunes
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Shmoop Connections

Explore the ways this song connects with the world and with other topics on Shmoop
In the hands of a different artist, "Heartbreak Hotel" might never have made a mark on the music industry. It's built on a standard blues music pattern, so how did it end up being such a big part of rock and roll history? The answer is pure Elvis. He took the traditional genres he inherited—the blues, gospel and country music—and made them his own.

On the Charts

"Heartbreak Hotel" reached #1 on the Billboard Top 100 in March 1956, and was Elvis Presley's first #1 hit. The reissue of the song 50 years later, in 2006, also reached #1.

The song was Presley's first to sell more than one million copies.

The song was added to the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995.
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