Thursday, May 5, 2016

Sixty Years Ago Today Elvis Presley Hit No. 1

It was sixty years ago today that Elvis Presley's self-titled debut album hit number one on the Billboard album chart. At the time his single "Heartbreak Hotel" had been number on the Billboard Top 100 since April 21.

In early 1956 Elvis Presley showed all the signs of becoming a phenomenon. His first single on RCA Victor, "Heartbreak Hotel", was released on January 27 1956 and was moving steadily up the charts. His final single released on Sun Records, "I Forgot to Remember to Forget", hit number on the Billboard Country chart on February 25 1956. Elvis made four consecutive appearances on the Dorsey Brothers' TV series Stage Show, first appearing on January 28 and last appearing on February 18. He appeared on Stage Show two more times, on  March 17, and March 24.

With Elvis Presley's career gathering momentum in the early months of 1956, it should not be surprising that RCA Victor would want to release an album right away. Fortunately RCA Victor had gotten the rights to Elvis Presley's Sun Records tapes when they signed him. They were then able to create the album, simply titled Elvis Presley, by combing five unreleased Sun Records tracks with seven songs he had recorded at RCA Victor.

Curiously, the single "Heartbreak Hotel" was not included on the album. Many of the songs on the album were also covers of songs by other artists. These included Carl Perkins's "Blue Suede Shoes", Ray Charles's "I Got a Woman", Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti", Rogers and Hart's "Blue Moon", and Jesse Stone's "Money Honey". This was not unusual for albums at the time, which often combined a number of cover songs along with original material.

Regardless, Elvis Presley proved very successful. It remained in the number one spot of the Billboard albums chart until July 7. Retitled Elvis Presley Rock 'n' Roll in the United Kingdom, it would also top the British albums chart. As to Elvis, he would be an outright phenomenon before the year's end. His next album, Elvis, was released in October 1956 and topped the Billboard albums chart as well. In 1956 Elvis had four more number one singles following "Heartbreak Hotel": "I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"; "Don't Be Cruel"; "Hound Dog"; and "Love Me Tender". If there was any doubt that Elvis Presley would be the next big thing, it would have been dispelled by his first appearance on the popular Ed Sullivan Show on September 9 1956. An unprecedented 60 million viewers tuned into the show, 82.6 percent of all television viewers at the time. Elvis was well on his way to becoming one of the biggest rock stars of all time.

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