Nine Covers of "Heartbreak Hotel" on Its 58th Birthday

Keep Houston Press Free
I Support
  • Local
  • Community
  • Journalism
  • logo

Support the independent voice of Houston and help keep the future of Houston Press free.

Exactly 58 years ago, Elvis Presley released Heartbreak Hotel on RCA Records, which had just bought his contract from Sun Records for a measly $35,000. Heartbreak sold 300,000 copies in its first week and would eventually become the King's first certified gold record.

Also, it's worth noting that, while moving 300,000 copies in a week is hardly unheard of, this was before iTunes.

The song itself, which Presley himself didn't write, was based on the story of a man jumping to his death from a hotel window. Its writer, a high school teacher named Mae Boren Axton who also wrote songs for the likes of Willie Nelson, Reba McEntire and even Miranda Lambert's husband Blake Shelton, didn't even approach Presley with the song first. Originally, she tried to sell it to the Wilburn brothers who declined, calling it "morbid."

Hindsight is a killer. But hey, a syndicated television program is a lot like a certified gold record, right?

Presley, meanwhile, liked the song so much, he agreed to take only 33 percent of the royalties, leaving the songwriter with what we can only assume is an abundance of cash.

In honor of the King, his music and this day in music history, here are a few interesting, odd and/or lesser-known covers of the iconic "Heartbreak Hotel" we've put together for your listening pleasure.

Coffin Nails

Blue Magoos

The Residents

John Cale

Guns 'n' Roses Featuring Tom Petty

Hanni El Khatib

Van Halen

Tommy Emmanuel

Willie Nelson, Leon Russell

Keep the Houston Press Free... Since we started the Houston Press, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Houston, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Houston with no paywalls.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.