Elvis Presley's 'Heartbreak Hotel:' History, Meaning, And Lyrics Of The Hit That Almost Wasn't

By | January 23, 2020

test article image
Elvis Presley holding framed gold record of Heartbreak Hotel while in a recording studio to record a new song. (Photo by Don Cravens/The LIFE Images Collection via Getty Images/Getty Images)

"Heartbreak Hotel" was Elvis Presley's first hit -- and it was a strange one. Neither an upbeat rocker nor a sensitive ballad, "Heartbreak Hotel" is aggressively sorrowful, certainly informed by the blues Elvis loved. But in its lyrics, it's bleak -- almost suicidal or apocalyptic. Though today it's a pillar of early rock music and Elvis' career, many people around the future King expressed doubt when it was recorded. 

'Heartbreak Hotel' Was A Genre-Spanning Blockbuster

test article image
There's an actual Heartbreak Hotel in Tennessee (invisible-exports)

The 1956 sensation sold so well that Billboard presented the King with a “Double Triple Crown” award that saluted “Heartbreak Hotel” for simultaneously hitting #1 on all six of their pop and country charts. “Heartbreak Hotel” even made the top five on Billboard's R&B chart, cementing its legacy as an all-time tune. The smash-hit was Elvis’ first and paved the way for the Presely to become the King we all remember today. On top of the roaring success, the backstory to “Heartbreak Hotel” warrants a motion picture. Here’s the story of “Heartbreak Hotel.”