You mix a lonely man’s suicide, two great songwriters and Elvis Presley, and what do you get?
One of the biggest hit songs in rock and roll history.
Heartbreak Hotel was released as a single on January 27, 1956.
The song was written by Tommy Durden and Mae Boren Axton in just one hour. It was based on a newspaper story about the suicide of a lonely artist who never became a success.
In an unpublished autobiography, he wrote, “This is the story of a person who walks a lonely street.”
He finally gave up and jumped to his death from a hotel window. He was 27 years old.
Heartbreak Hotel was Elvis’s first song on his new record label RCA Victor and shot to the top of Billboard’s Top 100 chart where it stayed for seven weeks.
It was on the Country and Western chart for 17 weeks, Cashbox’s pop singles chart for six weeks, and reached No. 3 on the R&B chart, making it Elvis’s first million-seller, and one of the best-selling singles of 1956.
Elvis recorded it in a session with his band, The Blue Moon Boys with Chet Atkins playing guitar and Floyd Cramer on piano.
Country Music Hall of Fame pianist Floyd Cramer played piano for such stars as Elvis Presley, Patsy Cline, Brenda Lee, Roy Orbison, Jim Reeves, Don Gibson and the Everly Brothers.
But it was his 1960 piano solo ‘Last Date’ that made him famous. The “lonesome cowboy” melody sold over one million copies and went to number two on Billboard’s ‘Hot 100’ pop music chart. It was shut out from the number one spot by Elvis’s ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight’ — in which the pianist was none other than Floyd Cramer.
His “slip note” style of playing was described by Floyd himself as “a whole-tone slur which gives more of a lonesome cowboy sound. You hit a note and slide almost simultaneously to another.” The unique style became a key “Nashville sound” of the 1950s and 1960s and influenced a generation of pianists.
Floyd Cramer died on December 31, 1997. He was 64.
Three famous singers, two terrific actors, an award-winning writer, a baseball legend and a revolutionary Canadian politician all died on August 16.
THE MOST FAMOUS OF ALL OF COURSE
No words are required for Elvis, who died in Memphis in 1977 at the age of 42. Worldwide headlines speak for themselves.
LEST WE FORGET
Soul singer Aretha Franklin began her career as a child singing gospel at a Baptist Church in Detroit and went on to become the Queen of Soul. She died in Detroit in 2018 at the age of 76.
Blues guitarist Robert Johnson is considered to be the founding member of the ‘Forever 27 Club’ — famous musicians who died at the age of 27. They include Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Brian Jones and the Grateful Dead’s Ron “Pigpen” McKernan. Johnson died in Greenwood, Miss. in 1938 under mysterious circumstances. There are several theories how he died, including murder. That story here.
Old-time Hollywood actor Bela Lugosi, was famous for his role as the vampire Count Dracula. Born in Budapest he was in several Hungarian films before immigrating to America in 1921. His horror movies also include ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue’ and ‘White Zombie.’ He died in L.A. in 1956 at the age of 73.
Swashbuckling British actor Stewart Granger starred in adventure flicks including the ‘Prisoner of Zenda’ and ‘King Solomon’s Mines.’ He died in Santa Monica, California, in 1993 at the age of 80.
New York Yankees slugger George Herman “Babe” Ruth hit 60 home runs in 1927. His larger-than-life persona and movie-star-like wild and crazy antics off the field made him a legendary figure. He died in New York City in 1948 at the age of 53.
‘Gone with the Wind’ author Margaret Mitchell won a National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize for her Civil war epic. The 1939 movie was the biggest money earner of that time and remained so for 25 years. Mrs. Mitchell died after being struck by a speeding car in Atlanta in 1949 at the age of 48.
John Diefenbaker was the 13th Prime Minister of Canada, from June 1957 to April 1963. He led the conservative Tories to their first electoral victory in 27 years. Under his leadership the Canadian Bill of Rights was enacted and the First Nations and Inuit peoples received the right to vote. He died in Ottawa in 1979 at the age of 83.