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Don’t Be Cruel

(Otis Blackwell/Elvis Presley)

Otis Blackwell wrote this song primarily and a demo was sent to Elvis Presley in 1956.  It was sold for the price of $25 on Christmas Eve 1955 and had Otis Blackwell singing, playing the piano and playing a cardboard box that doubled as a drum.  Elvis reworked it and subsequently was named a co-writer.  This was not unusual for songwriters like Otis Blackwell in these days as it was commonplace for the artists or producer to put their name on the credits to ensure royalty payments, but in this case the co-writer issue seems genuine enough.

When it was first recorded by Elvis Presley in New York in July 1956 it was the B-side of a single release, with “Hound Dog” being on the A-side.  It was the seventh recording of eight takes and immediately made history by becoming the first record to top all of the Billboard Charts of the day, i.e. R&B, country and pop.  It remained on the Billboard Hot 100 for 11 weeks and tied with Anton Karas and Johnnie Ray for the most consecutive weeks at No. 1, only to be beaten in 1992 by Boyz II Men with “End of the Road”.   Due to the fact that “Don’t Be Cruel” had as much popularity as “Hound Dog” it was later re-released as a Double A-side.  The original musicians on the single were Elvis Presley on rhythm guitar, Bill Black on bass, Scotty Moore on lead guitar, D.J. Fontana on drums and The Jordanaires singing the backing vocals, but although the producer was credited as Steve Scholes, it later turned out that Elvis had done the production and rearranged it on piano himself.

The singer Jackie Wilson sang it in Las Vegas with Elvis Presley in the audience and other artists including Cheap Trick, The Residents, Jody Miller, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Keith Richards, Jerry Lee Lewis and Neil Diamond have recorded it.

In the world of film and television it has featured in at least 21 movies and TV programmes.  In 2002 the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone named it No. 197 in the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.

Mike Berry recordings
MCA-40432 (MC4190)
This version was a hit in The Netherlands for Mike Berry.