Don't Be Cruel
Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" and "Don't Be Cruel" became a double-sided hit that climbed to number one and retained that position for 11 weeks -- longer than any other single release of the rock 'n' roll era. It also reached number one on the country-western and rhythm-and-blues charts.
"Don't Be Cruel" was written by rhythm-and-blues singer-songwriter Otis Blackwell, though Elvis was given a cowriting credit. Blackwell had sold the song to a music publisher, Shalimar Music, for $25 on Christmas Eve 1955. Elvis' parent publisher, Hill and Range, had acquired the song, and the demo was one from a stack that the hot new singer listened to during an RCA recording session in July 1956.
When Elvis wanted to record the song, Blackwell was told that he would have to cut a deal and share the writer's credit with him, though Elvis did not contribute anything to writing the song. Blackwell was uneasy about the deal, but he realized he stood to make a great deal of money from royalties -- even at half-interest -- if Elvis recorded the song. This would not be the last time that Elvis received a writing credit on a song he did not originally compose.
During the recording session, Elvis rehearsed the song a couple of times with his regular backup musicians, a piano player hired by RCA, and the Jordanaires. Then, the group worked on the song, finessing it as they went through almost 30 takes.
All the musicians contributed something in their own way. D.J. Fontana used Elvis' leather-covered guitar as a makeshift drum to capture a snare effect by laying it across his lap and hitting the back with a mallet. Their efforts resulted in one of Elvis' most beloved songs and one of his personal favorites. Total sales for any Presley single are often difficult to calculate, but by March 1992, "Don't Be Cruel"/"Hound Dog" had been awarded triple platinum status by the RIAA.
To learn more about Elvis Presley, see:
- Elvis Presley
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- Elvis Presley Biography
Elvis' "Don't Be Cruel", the B-side to the "Hound Dog" single, topped the charts
for 11 weeks straight.