Elvis Presley’s #1 Hits – Part 2

It’s easy to say that Elvis Presley had a lot of hit singles. Even the most casual fan can sing a few lines from his biggest hits.

But there’s more to Elvis, and to those songs, than catchy hooks and topping the charts.

In January, we shared some insights into a handful of Elvis’ No. 1 hits, and this week, we’re doing it again, taking a look at another five of Elvis’ hit singles.

Keep reading to find out who wrote these tunes, where Elvis recorded them and much more.

“Love Me Tender”

"Love Me Tender" was Elvis' version, but the song had a long history before Elvis made the song famous.

“Love Me Tender” was Elvis’ version, but the song had a long history before Elvis made the song famous.

“Love me tender,
love me sweet,
never let me go…”

This song is such a classic.

“Love Me Tender” was written for Elvis’ first film of the same name. Elvis’ version is based on the Civil War-era tune “Aura Lee,” written in 1861 by W.W. Fosdick and George R. Poulton. Later, “Aura Lee” was changed to “Army Blue,” and it was used as the class song for the West Point class of 1865. “Love Me Tender” is Elvis’ version, and it was adapted by Ken Darby, the movie’s musical director. He shared writer’s credits with his wife, Vera Matson, and Elvis. However, neither helped with the writing.

Elvis recorded “Love Me Tender” on August 24, 1956, at Fox Stage 1 in Hollywood. This session felt a little unfamiliar to Elvis: he had to record on a massive 20th Century Fox soundstage, and he was not joined by his regular band and back-up singers. The musicians on this recording include Vito Mumolo on guitar, drummer Richard Cornell, bass player Mike “Myer” Rugin, Luther Rountree on banjo and Dom Frontieri on accordian. Charles Prescott, Jon Dodson and Rad Robinson performed vocals. Bob Mayer and Ren Runyon engineered the song.

The second take of the song was used as the single, and it shipped to stores about a month after it was recorded, on September 28, 1956. Fans loved it. “Love Me Tender” was No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart for five weeks, and it stayed on the charts for a total of 23 weeks. The song charted at No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B singles and Country singles lists. “Love Me Tender” reached No. 11 on the British pop singles chart.

The hit song has been covered by the likes of Frank Sinatra, Andrea Bocelli, Linda Ronstadt, Barry Manilow and Percy Sledge, as well as Barbara Streisand, who sang the song with Elvis on her duets album, “Partners.”

“A Big Hunk o’ Love”

Elvis recorded this track in Nashville.

Elvis recorded this track in Nashville.

“Hey baby, I ain’t askin’ much of you
No no no no no no no no
Baby, I ain’t askin’ much of you
Just a big-a big-a big-a hunk o’ love will do…”

Can you resist dancing to this one?

Elvis recorded this hit on June 10, 1958, at Nashville’s RCA Studio B, while Elvis was on leave from the U.S. Army. He recorded “A Fool Such as I” at this same session.

“A Big Hunk O’ Love” was written by Sid Wyche and Aaron Schroeder. Backing Elvis on this track are a group of Nashville’s “A-Team,” assembled by Chet Atkins. Chet, Elvis and Hank “Sugarfoot” Garland all played guitar, with Bob Moore on bass, Floyd Cramer on piano and The Jordanaires singing back-up. D.J. Fontana and Murry “Buddy” Harman both played drums. The guys had to take care of business quickly and professionally, as Elvis would soon ship out to Germany, and this was his last recording session until after his release from service in 1960.

Several takes were used to create the single, which was released about a year later, on June 23, 1959. “My Wish Came True” served as the B side. The tune helped keep Elvis’ music on the radio while he served his country. It topped the Billboard pop singles chart for two weeks, and it stayed on the chart for 14 weeks total. On the Billboard R&B singles chart, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” reached No. 10, while it peaked at No. 4 in its 9-week stay on the British pop singles chart.

Elvis’ “A Big Hunk O’ Love” was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1959: Best Rhythm & Blues Performance and Best Performance by a Top 40 Artist. The awards instead went to Dinah Washington’s “What a Difference a Day Makes” and “Midnight Flyer” by Nat King Cole, respectively.

“Wooden Heart”

Elvis stars as Tulsa in "G.I. Blues."

Elvis stars as Tulsa in “G.I. Blues.”

“Treat me nice
Treat me good
Treat me like you really should
Cause I’m not made of wood
And I don’t have a wooden heart…”

This sweet song from Elvis’ fifth movie, “G.I. Blues,” was recorded on April 28, 1960, at RCA Studios in Hollywood. The original German folk song, “Muss I Denn,” was adapted for the film by Ben Weisman, Kay Twomey and Fred Wise.

Elvis’ backing band for this session included Scotty Moore and Tiny Timbrell on guitar, D.J. Fontana and Frank Bode on drums, Jimmie Haskell on accordian, Dudley Brooks on piano and bass player Ray Siegel. The Jordanaires performed back-up vocals, with members Neal Matthews filling in on guitar and Hoyt Hawkins playing the tambourine. Take 4 was released as the single – but not for several years.

“G.I. Blues,” the movie, was released in 1960, but “Wooden Heart” wasn’t released as a single until November 1964. It served as the flip side to a seasonal reissue of Elvis’ 1957 hit single, “Blue Christmas.” While the song didn’t chart in America, it was No. 1 for 6 weeks of its 27 week-run on the British pop singles chart.

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers released a cover version of “Wooden Heart” in a box set compilation in 1995. That same compilation also features a cover of “Baby, Let’s Play House.”

“Jailhouse Rock”

Elvis recorded tunes for the "Jailhouse Rock" soundtrack in Hollywood.

Elvis recorded tunes for the “Jailhouse Rock” soundtrack in Hollywood.

“Number 47 said to Number 3,
‘You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see,
I sure would be delighted with your company
Come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me'”

From that unmistakable intro to this song’s dazzling “music video,” “Jailhouse Rock” is a fan-favorite for a reason.

This song, the title track of Elvis’ third film, was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, the prolific songwriters who wrote or co-wrote more than 70 chart hits. Elvis recorded many of their songs, including “Love Me,” “Don’t” and “Loving You.”

Elvis met the writers when they attended the first “Jailhouse Rock” recording session on April 30, 1957 at Radio Recorders in Hollywood. They were surprised to learn that Elvis was such a big fan of R&B, and that he knew even the most obscure R&B songs.

Musicians performing on “Jailhouse Rock” are drummer D.J. Fontana, bass player Bill Black, guitarist Scotty Moore, piano player Dudley Brooks and The Jordanaires on vocals.

During one of these recording sessions, Elvis walked out after he heard that MGM had scolded The Jordanaires for “wasting time” singing gospel songs with Elvis rather than recording the soundtrack. The executive didn’t understand that this was Elvis and The Jordanaires’ way of warming up and getting ready to record. Bill Black also walked out of a session; he was frustrated when he had to switch from playing his upright bass to a new electric Fender bass. Elvis picked up the bass and played Bill’s bass line.

Take 6 was used for the single, which was released September 24, 1957. “Treat Me Nice” was on the B-side. Elvis was sure “Treat Me Nice” would be the hit, but it only peaked at No. 18 on the Billboard pop singles chart. “Jailhouse Rock” was the hit, which stayed on the Billboard charts for 27 weeks, seven of those weeks spent at No. 1. The track hit No. 1 on the R&B singles chart, where it stayed for 5 weeks, and it remained on the charts for another 10 weeks. “Jailhouse Rock” also topped the British pop singles chart for three weeks.

“Jailhouse Rock” has been covered by many artists, including Queen, ZZ Top, Motley Crue, The Cramps, Frankie Lymon, Jeff Beck, John Mellencamp and Jerry Lee Lewis.

“Way Down”

Find out where Elvis stood in the Jungle Room for this session when you visit Graceland.

There are no photos of the Jungle Room sessions, but you can find out where Elvis stood in the Jungle Room for this session when you visit Graceland.

“Way down where the music plays
Way down like a tidal wave
Way down where the fires blaze
Way down, down, way, way on down…”

The Jungle Room wasn’t called the “Jungle Room” when Elvis lived at Graceland; it was just called “the den.” And that’s where Elvis recorded this soulful tune on October 29, 1976. The song was written by Layng Martine Jr., who also wrote and co-wrote hits like “The Greatest Man I Never Knew” by Reba McEntire, “I Wanna Go Too Far” by Trisha Yearwood and “Should I Do It” by The Pointer Sisters.

James Burton, John Wilkinson, Charlie Hodge and Chip Young played guitar for this track, and Jerry Scheff played bass. Ronnie Tutt played drums, David Briggs played electric piano and Tony Brown played piano. The back-up singers were Kathy Westmoreland, Myrna Smith, Sherrill Nielsen and J.D. Sumner and The Stamps. Percussion from Randy Cullers and other overdubbing with the band was added later.

It was the second take that was used for the single, which was released July 6, 1977, with “Pledging My Love” as the B-side. It was Elvis’ last single released during his lifetime. It reached No. 18 in its 21-week run on the Billboard pop singles chart, and reached No. 1 in its 17-week run on the country chart. It also peaked at No. 1 for five weeks of its 13-week run on the British pop singles chart.

If you want to know more about Elvis’ career, then Graceland is a must-experience. In addition to seeing the Jungle Room at the mansion, you can explore Elvis: The Entertainer Career Museum, the world’s largest Elvis museum. There, you’ll see an amazing display of Elvis’ Gold, Platinum and Diamond Records – it’s truly a dazzling display of Elvis’ amazing musical achievements. Start planning your experience today!


6 Comments

  1. dr. Matthew carpenter

    TO KNOW HIM, IS TO KNOW WHAT’S IN HIS HEAD…..

  2. stephen stathis

    Big Hunk of Love was so great: it’s not unlike Burning Love. One could have a fine album of Elvis singing Elvis: Relax and Fever; Roustabout & The Fair is Moving On; Any Day Now and It Hurts Me; Stuck on You and All Shook Up; Suspicious Minds and Suspicion.

  3. Mary Alice Lopez

    Every song that Elvis sang was sung with so much love, energy, soul, and giving, it is incredible, how Elvis always
    maintained that high energy-level, never sang a song half way, but always with such vigor, such energy…..unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!! He is the King of Music!

  4. CESAR

    GOD GAVE ELVIS SUCH A GIFT AND HE SHARED IT WITH THE WORLD. THROUGH HIS MUSICAL TALENT HE BROUGHT A UNIQUE AND INCOMPARABLE KIND OF JOY TO MILLIONS. A GREAT BLESSING!

  5. Lorraine

    Even after all these years, no one comes near Elvis as the most charismatic, beautiful and talented entertainer that ever walked this earth. He has given so much joy and pleasure with his beautiful songs and even his films, though not always of the highest artistic calibre (no fault of his!)are ever entertaining and it is impossible for Elvis to look other than drop dead handsome in films and photos. As a man, he was also something special and unique. Long live the King!

  6. stephen

    Having heard all of Elvis’ songs (700 plus), it seems he became who he wanted to be by singing: it elevated him out of the muck of his early life and his later years. like the lotus flower, he (and we) rose out of the muck to become more beautiful.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *