Monday, June 8, 2015

Elvis Presley: The Ghost of Heartbreak Hotel

Elvis Presley’s first number one million-selling hit single Heartbreak Hotel was inspired by a suicide note.

Steel guitarist and session musician Tommy Durden read a newspaper article about a man who killed himself. In the note, he left behind were these haunting words: “ I walk a lonely street.”

Durden shared this article with his friend and cowriter Mae Boren Axton a high school English teacher who moonlighted as a journalist and songwriter. Axton had written hit songs for Perry Como and Ernest Tubb.

In 1955, Mae Axton took a part-time job working as a public relations secretary for Elvis Presley’s manager Colonel Tom Parker.

When Axton first met Elvis she told him all he needed to become a star was a hit song.

Axton and Durden then turned the poignant line from the suicide note into a song about a “heartbreak hotel” at the end of a lonely street where “broken-hearted lovers cry away their gloom.”

Eerily, this song in Elvis' later years seemed to reflect his own life.

Presley’s name appeared on the record as a third writer, but this was just a deal Colonel Parker struck with the two writers for Elvis so that he would cut the song.

Elvis upon hearing Heartbreak Hotel immediately loved it and started to perform it on the road. But it was different than any other song he had recorded at Sun Records, in Memphis. The label record boss at the time--Sam Phillips hated it and called it a “morbid mess.”

At RCA’s headquarters in New York, they agreed with Phillips, they told Elvis to re-record it. But Presley stood his ground and the rest is history. Heartbreak Hotel is still a part of pop culture today.

The old RCA recording studio where Elvis recorded Heartbreak Hotel, in 1956. is located in Nashville, Tennessee.

Studio B recording Heartbreak Hotel

Today these rooms are used for televisions productions, and it is here where Elvis’ ghost acts out the most.

Stagehands that work on productions, state that all one has to do is mention Elvis’s name and these rooms become active.

Old RCA recording studio
Lights blow out, ladders fall over, and mysterious noises are heard coming from the sound system. Several workers have observed Elvis ghost--he is described as wearing a white jumpsuit decorated with sequins.

It appears Elvis even in death believes “the show must go on.”

Other locations that lay claim to Elvis’ ghost include:

The Knickerbocker Hotel in Hollywood. where Elvis stayed while making his 40+ films. It is said Room 1016 is always unseasonably cold.

At Elvis’ home Graceland in Memphis. Witnesses state they have felt him most often in the mansion’s kitchen. One famous photo taken is believed to have captured Elvis peering through the curtains at one window.

Another town that claims his ghostly presence is Las Vegas. He is seen at various locations at the Las Vegas Hilton, near the strip. It was here in 1976, where he gave his last performance.

He is seen in the penthouse suite where he stayed, in the basement where he would hang out, with members of his band before and after shows, and in a freight elevator where he hid to avoid mobbing fans.

Wishful fans also report seeing Elvis’s ghost wearing a jumpsuit, and driving a red Cadillac around the strip.

Here is Elvis performing Heartbreak Hotel on his network television debut in 1956.

1 comment:

Martha Jette said...

In March 2015, I was in Memphis to see Graceland with my daughter and granddaughter. We stayed at Heartbreak Hotel right across the street. When I settled in to sleep for the night (we were going to Graceland in the morning), I felt a gentle hand sweep the back of my hair and down to my neck. I knew Elvis was there. He really is the Ghost of Heartbreak Hotel!