NOVEMBER 10, 1955 THURSDAY
Elvis Presley left Memphis with Bob Neal and drove to Nashville for
the Annual Country And Western Music Disc Jockey Convention at the Andrew Jackson Hotel, 231 6th Avenue North.
From Florida, Mae Boren Axton drove to Nashville with a
new song in and, "Heartbreak Hotel", a tune co-written with Tom Durden after he had read a poignant newspaper article in the Miami Herald. Under with a headline: "Do You Know This Man?" was a story describing the suicide of a man who had scrawled a one-line
note before his death: "I walk a lonely street". The line became the lyrical focal point for "Heartbreak Hotel", and it was not long before the song was a crucial part of Elvis Presley's contract talks with RCA.
A friend of Mae Boren Axton, Colonel Tom Parker had hired her as a publicist during a number of Hank Snow's tours. She had also been responsible for booking Elvis Presley in Jacksonville, Florida, a number of times. "Mae was
a well-known and respected figure in the music business", Johnny Tillotson remarked, "it was only natural for her to approach Elvis Presley with "Heartbreak Hotel".
had witnessed the reaction to Elvis' music, and realized that Elvis Presley held the ticket to great wealth. Johnny Tillotson remembers how excited Axton was over the prospect of Presley recording her song. "She realized early on", Tillotson remarked, "that
Presley was going to be a huge act".
By the time Axton brought "Heartbreak Hotel" to Nashville, a demo of the song had already been turned down by the Wilburn Brothers.
They thought it was weird. After listening to country singer Glenn Reeves'(1) demo tape of the tune, Elvis Presley told Axton that he loved it. As Elvis Presley practised it, Tom Durden noticed that Presley was copying the demo singer's style exactly. "Elvis
was even breathing in the same places that Glenn did on the dub", Durden remarked. "Heartbreak Hotel" was an important song for Elvis Presley; heneeded original songs, and it definitely fit his style".
To make sure that this song was right for Elvis Presley, however, Colonel Tom Parker played the demo for a number of music people. They all agreed it was excellent. The Colonel wasn't convinced, and Mae Axton and Tom Durden
were about to take the song elsewhere when Glenn Reeves convinced Parker that the song had enormous commercial potential. The Colonel believed that Reeves had an ear for hit songs and the deal was consummated. To sweeten the deal, Axton and Durden agreed to
give Elvis Presley a share of the songwriting credits, a common practice in the music industry in the 1950s. Although Elvis Presley didn't pen one word of this tune, the fact that Mae Axton went so far as to offer Elvis Presley a third of the songwriting credits
if he would record it helped increase Colonel Tom Parker's enthusiasm for the song.
For his part, the deal made Elvis Presley nervous because he prided himself on his
artistic integrity. Colonel Parker was proving to be too manipulative even at this early point in Presley's career, pressing Elvis Presley to record songs that would add to his royalties. To woo his singer, Colonel Parker expressed confidence that "Heartbreak
Hotel" had a special quality, musically speaking; the real reason behind his interest in the song was the extra royalty money that Elvis Presley would collect. In the end, Elvis Presley accepted the Colonel's plea that they had to work with songwriters who
would allow them to share in the royalties.
As significant as the drama surrounding the acquisition of "Heartbreak Hotel" for Elvis Presley was, the RCA deal overshadowed
the events of the day. As negotiations over the song went on quietly and without fanfare, there were rumours everywhere at the Andrew Jackson Hotel that Elvis Presley was about to sign the most lucrative recording contract in history, rumours which would obscure
the fact that the deal Colonel Tom Parker negotiated for his young protege was really rather average.
"Hot dog, Mae, play it again", recalled Bob Neal, "and she played
"Heartbreak Hotel" it over and over, it was really different, a little like Roy Brown's "Hard Luck Blues", only this was about a hotel, a heartbreak hotel, where the bellhop's tears kept flowing and the desk clerk was dressed in black. He knew the whole song
before he left the room. 'That's gonna be my next record", he said.
NOVEMBER 10, 1955 THURSDAY
Roy Drusky signs with Columbia Records, his second stint with a label. He has four sessions over the next two years but fails to connect commercially.
11, 1955 FRIDAY
Elvis Presley's second one-year contract with The Louisiana Hayride takes effect. He receives $200 weekly, the same amount paid to Hank Williams three
Songwriter and guitarist Dave Alvin, of The Blasters, is born in Downey, California. The roots-rock band influences the alternate country movement. The
band's 1985 song ''Little Honey'' is covered by Kelly Willis for the soundtrack to ''Thelma and Louise''.
Broadway composer Jerry Ross dies of a lung infection in New
York. His credits include ''Hernando's Hideaway'', a song from the musical ''The Pajama Game'' that became a country hit the previous year when parodied by Homer and Jethro.
12, 1955 SATURDAY
Songwriter Walt Aldridge is born in Florence, Alabama. Among his songs, Heartland's ''I Loved Her First'', Earl Thomas Conley's ''Holding Her And Loving
You'', Ricky Van Shelton's ''I Am A Simple Man'' and Ronnie Milsap's ''(There's) No Gettin' Over Me''.
NOVEMBER 13, 1955 SUNDAY
Al Hibbler performs ''Unchained Melody'' on the CBS variety show ''Toast Of The Town''. The song will become a country hit twice, for Elvis Presley in 1978, and for LeAnn Rimes in 1997.
NOVEMBER 14, 1955 MONDAY
Decca released Kitty Well's double-sided hit ''Lonely Side Of Town'' and ''I've
Kissed You My Last Time''.
NOVEMBER 15, 1955 TUESDAY
This day was the last day
of the option, Sam Phillips got a midmorning call from Colonel Tom Parker notifying Sam that RCA had come up with the money for the sale of Elvis. Parker asked Sam if he wanted the money wired to him, in order to conform strictly to the terms of the deal,
but Sam said no, just send it special delivery for arrival by midnight the following night, and sent a telegram to that effect. They would have to get together in the next week or so to finalize all the arrangements, and that would, naturally, take place in
NOVEMBER 16, 1955 WEDNESDAY
Guitarist Jack Pruett joins the American
Federation of Musicians in Nashville. He goes on to play on such Marty Robbins hits as ''Knee Deep In The Blues'', ''Devil Woman'' and ''El Paso''.
"The white people
of Memphis have never understood just what Beale Street really meant and means to my people". W.C. Handy in an interview at his home in New York in theMemphis Press-Scimitar.
17, 1955 THURSDAY
Ray Charles is busted backstage in Philadelphia for the use of narcotics. The rhythm and blues singer later makes wave in country with his 1962 album
''Modern Sounds In Country And Western Music'' and his 1985 duet with Willie Nelson, ''Seven Spanish Angels''.
NOVEMBER 18, 1955 FRIDAY
Seven months after the first attempted it, Webb Pierce recorded the single version of ''Yes, I Know Why'' at the Bradley Film and Recording Studio in Nashville.
With $5,000 in hand, Sam Phillips put in a rush order at all three of his pressing plants for the new Johnny Cash and Billy ''The Kid'' Emerson singles.. Sam also planned Sun releases for Charlie Feathers and Maggie Sue Wimberly,
a fourteen-year-old from Florence, Alabama, whom Quinton Claunch and Bill Cantrell had discovered, through fellow former Blue Seal Pal Dexter Johnson, singing with a family group in church, his first in six months, but this time, with Elvis no longer in the
picture, with an eye toward finally capturing Carl's contagiously upbeat, shimmering ''bop'' style.
NOVEMBER 19, 1955 SATURDAY
Ivory Joe Hunter recorded ''A Tear Fell'' in New York. In 1977, Billy ''Crash'' Craddock re-recorded the song as a country hit.
Cash writes ''I Walk The Line'' in Gladewater, Texas, in 20 minutes prior to a remote broadcast of The Louisiana Hayride. Also appearing on the bill, Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins.
20, 1955 SUNDAY
Having promised to perform the current country hit ''Sixteen Tons'', rhythm and blues act Bo Diddley instead does ''Bo Diddley'' on ''The Ed Sullivan
Show'' from New York. The CBS host never invites Diddley to sing on the program again.