How Elvis Presley Gets Writing Credits Without Writing Songs

How Elvis Presley Gets Writing Credits Without Writing Songs | Society Of Rock Videos

via Elvis Presley/YouTube

Even though Elvis Presley gained popularity almost 75 years ago by singing early blues-rock songs, he remains a prominent figure in the music world today. Recognized for his distinct lip curl, hip movements, and velvety, deep singing voice, many still regard Presley as a legendary artist.

Interestingly, Presley, despite his extensive song collection and numerous hits, wasn’t actually a songwriter. Yet, you might wonder why he’s listed as a songwriter for some of his major tracks, such as “Don’t Be Cruel” and “Heartbreak Hotel.”

The straightforward explanation is that despite not composing any songs himself, Presley’s record label, Hill and Range Publishing, insisted that if he recorded a song, he would receive a songwriting credit. This practice began in 1954 and continued for years until Presley’s death in 1977 at 42.

Now, let’s explore six songs for which Presley received songwriting credit, even though he didn’t contribute to their creation.

1. “All Shook Up”
Written by Otis Blackwell, Elvis Presley

One of Presley’s hits, “All Shook Up,” climbed to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks. There are various stories about its creation. One version involves music executive Al Stanton, who, after shaking a Pepsi bottle, suggested the song’s catchy phrase to Blackwell. Another version connects Presley himself, who once mentioned having a dream that left him “all shook up.” He shared this with a friend, who turned it into the song.

A third account involves actor David Hess, who recorded the song initially. He explained that the song’s title came from a genuine experience. While the title was Hess’s idea, Otis Blackwell wrote the song. Presley was given writing credit to entice him to record the song.

2. “You’ll Be Gone”
Written by Red West, Charlie Hodge, Elvis Presley

Presley may have influenced the start of “You’ll Be Gone.” As per Red West, Presley’s bodyguard, the song originated from Presley expressing interest in updating Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.” However, when Porter declined permission, West, Presley, and Charlie Hodge created a new track. It’s uncertain how much input Presley had in the process.

3. “That’s Someone You Never Forget”
Written by Red West, Elvis Presley

Presley and Red West reportedly collaborated on “That’s Someone You Never Forget.” The song’s title was suggested by Presley, and West was tasked with composing it. Presley received co-writing credit. The song is a tribute to Presley’s mother, Gladys Love Presley, who passed away in 1958.

4. “Don’t Be Cruel”
Written by Otis Blackwell, Elvis Presley

Another hit, “Don’t Be Cruel,” was written by renowned songwriter Otis Blackwell. Presley’s name was added to the credits, likely to draw attention due to Presley being a top pop star at the time. Freddy Bienstock, Presley’s music publisher, explained that Presley would sometimes modify lines he wasn’t satisfied with, leading to co-writing credits in the early days.

5. “Heartbreak Hotel”
Written by Mae Boren Axton, Tommy Durden, Elvis Presley

Inspired by a newspaper story about a despondent man, “Heartbreak Hotel” was composed by Mae Boren Axton and Tommy Durden. Presley also received credit. After being presented with the song, Presley loved it so much that he listened to it repeatedly and memorized it. Since then, it has developed into one of his signature songs.

6. “Paralyzed”
Written by Otis Blackwell, Elvis Presley

Another collaboration between Blackwell and Presley, “Paralyzed,” was composed by Blackwell and then handed to Presley for recording. Presley’s decision to add his name to the writing credits attracted attention and recognition.

7. “Poor Boy”
Written by Ken Darby, Elvis Presley

“Poor Boy,” despite being written by Ken Darby, was credited to Presley and Ken Darby’s wife, Vera Matson. Released in 1956 on the album Love Me Tender, Presley benefited from royalties despite not being extensively involved in the song’s creation.

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