I don’t think there isn’t one person on the planet who hasn’t heard of Elvis, the undisputed King of Rock N Roll.
This is the story of his first ever number 1 hit “Heartbreak Hotel”. ‘Why do a story on just one song?’ I hear you say. The answer is easy, there are so many aspects to this song.
For starters, as already mentioned it would be Elvis’s first ever number 1 hit. It was the 2nd song he recorded with RCA Victor. Prior to his recording of Ray Charles’s “I got a woman” ,Elvis had been with Sun records.
“Heartbreak Hotel” was released as a single on January 27.1956.
It is also the song that inspired John Lennon,Elton John,George Harrison,Keith Richards and Robert Plant to become musicians, just imagine this song is responsible for the Beatles,Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.
Something that is often overlooked or taken for granted is the actual structure of the song. It starts of with only Elvis’s vocals. Typically a song would start with the instruments first and then the vocals come in, but in Heartbreak Hotel it is turned around. There are very few songs structured that way and I think it may have been the first time or one of the first times this happened in popular music.
Then there is the back story to the song, which remains a bit of a mystery.The song was written in 1955, by Mae Boren Axton, a high school teacher who was also involved in musical promotions, and Jacksonville based singer–songwriter Tommy Durden.
The lyrics were inspired by an article in ‘The Miami Herald’ about a hotel guest who jumped out of a window and committed suicide and left the note, “I walk a lonely street”.
However In 2016, a piece in Rolling Stone magazine suggested that the story originated from a report about a painter and petty criminal, Alvin Krolik, whose marriage had broken down and had written a partial autobiography including the line “This is the story of a person who walked a lonely street.”
Krolik first made the news in 1953 in Chicago. One day in November he walked into an Albany Park police department and confessed to his part in 10 robberies.
He said his victims could not identify him because he had used oil paints on his face.
He confessed he was driven to crime after his five-week marriage to Agnes Sampson ended in divorce.
He was given a lenient sentence because he had handed himself in and the Police thought he could be rehabilitated.
On August 25th,1955 , just prior to Durden and Axton found their inspiration for “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was written in September ,Krolik was about to make news again. On a Saturday night in El Paso, Texas, Krolik attempted to rob a liquor store.
D.R. Pinney, a former Texas patrolman.was the owner of the Busy Bee Liquor Store, shot Krolik 9 times. Krolik was not the first person Pinney had killed, he had killed robbers before.Maybe Krolik had known about Pinney’s record on criminals that held up his store, making this perhaps a suicide, similar to suicide by cop.
Whatever event it was, the Krolik or the Miami Herald event, it adds a certain intrigue to the Rock N Roll classic”Heatbreak Hotel”
Ending the blog with the aforementioned song, enjoy.
Rolling Stone Magazine
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