Sunday, November 28, 2010

50 years ago: Elvis hit #1 with “Are You Lonesome Tonight?”

Are You Lonesome Tonight?

Elvis Presley

Writer(s): Lou Handman, Roy Turk (see lyrics here)

Released: November 1, 1960

First Charted: November 7, 1960

Peak: 16 US, 16 CB, 14 HR, 22 CW, 3 RB, 14 UK, 11 CN, 16 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, 1.0 UK, 9.0 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 45.1 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Are You Lonesome Tonight?,” “one of the more woebegone songs ever written,” SF was penned by Tin Pan Alley songwriters Roy Turk and Lou Handman in 1926. It included a narration based on a speech from William Shakespeare’s As You Like It. It was first recorded by Al Jolson BR and soon after by Vaughn Deleath and Henry Burr. It was revived in 1950 by bandleader Blue Barron KL and made popular again in 1959 by Jaye P. Morgan. BR Barron and Jolson’s versions of the song included the spoken word section, but it wasn’t in all the versions. SF

Prior to managing Elvis Presley, Colonel Tom Parker was the manager for singer Gene Austin. One of his best numbers was “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” and a favorite of Parker’s wife Marie. TC He asked Elvis to record it on behalf of his wife. KL Elvis obliged on April 4, 1960, copying “Jolson’s arrangement note for note and almost word for word.” KL The session had “the intimacy of a man singing close to the microphone in the wee small hours.” TC The spoken word section “becomes a lover’s conversation.” TC

Some people were bothered by what they perceived as Elvis’ move away from rock and roll. Indeed he “had grown up considerably since his hard rockin’ days,” TC upon his return from army service in Germany, but this wasn’t exactly a new direction. In 1958, he released “another lost love song with a narration.” KL The B-side for “All Shook Up” was “That’s When Your Heartaches Begin,” a song associated with the Ink Spots. KL

The song was featured on the EP Flaming Star, which wasn’t really a soundtrack to the Elvis movie of the same name since it was his first film to feature him in a dramatic, non-singing role. “Lonesome” was Elvis’ 14th song to top the U.S. pop charts. It debuted at #35, higher than any other Elvis song had entered the chart up to that point. It was on top of the chart two weeks later. It was also his sixth #1 in the UK.

Resources and Related Links:

  • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Elvis Presley
  • BR Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 81.
  • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 31-2.
  • KL Jon Kutner and Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 73.
  • SF Songfacts

First posted 3/19/2021; last updated 4/28/2021.

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