By April 1956, Elvis Presley was one of the most popular singers in rock and roll music. Just two short years earlier, he began his career in the music industry. He left behind a working-class lifestyle and quickly became a national sensation due to his music and on-stage performances. Therefore, when he entered Nashville’s RCA Studios to finish some new tracks in the spring of that year, Presley was looking to piggyback on his runaway success. That day, Presley was pleasantly surprised with a gold record for his January 1956 release, “Heartbreak Hotel.”
Elvis Presley’s rise to fame took two short years
By 1956, Elvis Presley had morphed from a struggling rock and roll musician to a bonafide superstar. He first laid down the tracks that would propel him to superstardom at Memphis’ Sun Studios in 1954.
However, a backbreaking touring schedule kept Presley on the road and in the public eye for two years. Whenever he had time off, Presley was in the recording studio creating songs that would eventually be released as 45-singles.
According to History.com, “By the end of 1955, Elvis Presley had nearly 18 months of nonstop touring behind him. On the Country and Western charts, he also had two dozen singles already under his belt. He was a hardworking and hard-to-categorize up-and-comer, but the next six months would make him a superstar.”
“It was his debut single on RCA/Victor, his new label, which propelled Elvis to the top of the pop charts. But if ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ is what made him the king of the radio and record stores during the spring of 1956.”
In April 1956, Presley entered RCA Studios in Nashville. However, the session reportedly wasn’t one of his most productive. Only one song was recorded in three hours. But a surprise instantly brightened Presley’s mood.
Elvis Presley was awarded a gold record for ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ in the Spring of 1956
Hours before his Nashville recording session, Elvis Presley experienced a harrowing flight to Music City, per the Elvis History Blog. The incident occurred during a 15-city tour that began in San Diego and swept across Colorado, Texas, and Oklahoma before ending at the New Frontier Hotel in Las Vegas.
After appearing in Amarillo, TX, on Apr. 13th, Presley and his band flew to Nashville for a recording session. However, the private flight experienced mechanical and navigation difficulties, reportedly rattling the king of rock and roll.
Images taken during that session show Presley appearing pensive. Whether or not this mood was due to flight problems or that he felt tired, only one song was recorded during the booked studio time. ” I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” was cut in three hours.
During the recording session, Presley was gifted his first gold record for “Heartbreak Hotel.” The single was released in January 1956. “Heartbreak Hotel” was the first Presley single to sell over one million copies.
“Heartbreak Hotel” led the charge in Presley’s wall of hits, cemented by hundreds of gold and platinum records, accumulated over a history-making run as one of the leading rock and roll and country music artists. Thus far, Presley has 54 certified Gold singles.
‘Heartbreak Hotel’ would become one of the most iconic songs of Elvis Presley’s career
“Heartbreak Hotel” and its B-side “I Was the One” was released in January 1956 on vinyl by RCA. The songs would sell over 300,000 copies in its first three weeks and inspire millions of future hitmakers, including John Lennon and Keith Richards.
This song would remain at number one on the Billboard pop singles chart for eight weeks. Simultaneously, “Heartbreak Hotel” also hit the top spot on Billboard’s country chart and number five on the R&B chart. The song also became Presley’s first charting single in the United Kingdom.
Fun Fact: “Heartbreak Hotel” was never included on Elvis Presley’s self-titled debut album. However, it has since been included in many album combinations featuring songs from the king of rock and roll.