True Heartbreak

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In an unpublished autobiography, he wrote, “This is the story of a person who walks a lonely street.”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 true story

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.

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Floyd Cramer master of the ‘slip note’

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.

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