Song: “Heartbreak Hotel/I Was The One” by Elvis Presley
Reached #1: April 21, 1956 (his first, 10 weeks, Best Sellers chart)
In the spring of 1956, rock’n’roll was a fairly new concept, still trying to figure itself out. For the most part, “safe” acts were charting – and more conventional performers like Kay Starr, Dean Martin, and Nelson Riddle & his Orchestra were at the top of the various Billboard charts, with the occasional interruption by newer music by Buddy Holly or the Platters.
Then came a kid out of Tupelo, Mississippi by way of Memphis. While “Heartbreak Hotel” wasn’t all that radical of a track, even this early, it was obvious that Elvis Presley was a very different type of singer. There was an edge to him that nobody else had… a bit of danger that brought the bobbysoxers out in droves. It should be noted that “Heartbreak Hotel” hit #1 just after Elvis’ first national TV appearance, on NBC’s Milton Berle Show. If nothing else, Presley was the first artist to show that rock could be more than just the music – he showed that the full package of looks, sound, and marketing mattered.
While Elvis started it, you can look through the #1s of the late ‘50s to realize that it wasn’t a sudden, total change. It was several years before the last of the standards singers stopped hitting #1 – for a while, Elvis was pretty much the only solo rock act hitting #1. It wasn’t until late 1957 before Sam Cooke broke through – and you know that he wouldn’t have made it if Elvis hadn’t made “black music” safer for middle America. It wasn’t until 1960 or ‘61 that you could say the Billboard Hot 100 was really a rock chart.
Regardless of how long it took, though, Elvis did start the revolution… and the first shot was fired 56 years ago.
Tomorrow, an artist who in her way was as game-changing as Elvis.
Other songs that reached #1 on April 21:
1958 – “Twilight Time” by the Platters (their fourth, 2 weeks, Top 100 and Best Sellers charts)
1962 – “Good Luck Charm” by Elvis Presley and the Jordanaires (his sixteenth, 2 weeks)
1973 – “Tie A Yellow Ribbon Round The Old Oak Tree” by Dawn featuring Tony Orlando (their second, 4 weeks)
1979 – “Knock on Wood” by Amii Stewart (her first, 1 week)
1984 – “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now)” by Phil Collins (his first, 3 weeks)
1990 – “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor (her first, 4 weeks)
2007 – “Give It To Me” by Timbaland featuring Nelly Furtado & Justin Timberlake (Timbaland’s first, 2 weeks)