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

By Kellar Ellsworth
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.