Today’s song is ‘Don’t Be Cruel’. This song was recorded by Elvis Presley and was written by Otis Blackwell in 1956. It was inducted into the ‘Grammy Hall of Fame’ in 2002. In 2004, it was listed Number 197 in Rolling Stone’s list of ‘500 greatest Songs of All Time’. The song is currently ranked as the 173rd greatest song of all time, as well as the sixth-best song of in 1956 by ‘Acclaimed Music’.
‘Don't Be Cruel’ was the first song that Presley's song publishers, Hill and Range’ brought to him to record. Blackwell was more than happy to give up 50% of the royalties and a co-writing credit to Presley to ensure that the "hottest new singer around covered it". Unfortunately, he had already sold the song for only $25, as he stated in an interview of American Songwriter.
Presley recorded the song on July 2, 1956, during an exhaustive recording session at RCA studios in New York City. During this session he also recorded ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Any Way You Want Me’. It is stated that Elvis insisting on 28 takes before he was satisfied with it. He also ran through 31 takes of ‘Hound Dog’.
When this song was released, I was attempting to walk again as proficiently as possible, having incurred severe multiple injuries after a wagon had run over me two years earlier. This accident almost killed me and kept me in hospital nine months with a damaged spine and other injuries and prevented me walking for almost three years.
When I did regain my mobility of legs, I hobbled badly with a pronounced limp, due to one leg (and dozens of operations performed on it) being left three inches shorter than my other leg. Fearing that I would forever be a cripple, I spent the best part of the rest of my teenage years (14-21) exercising and engaging in any activity or sport that would improve my balance and increase the strength of my legs.
It was essential to improve my balance as much as possible as my short leg would so easily lead to my loss of balance and losing my footing. Such activities to improve my balance over the years included Relaxation Exercises: Transcendental Meditation: Auto Suggestion: Imagination Exercises: Indian Dance: Rock and Roll Dancing: Horse Riding: Judo: Amateur Wrestling: Table Tennis: Lawn Tennis: Lawn Bowls: Cross Country Running and Boxing.
Fortunately, I was to meet Tony Walsh who had come across to West Yorkshire from Ireland to stay at the home of a relative on Windybank Estate where I lived. Being both Irish and Catholic and attending the same Youth Club, we soon became friends. Tony had been a boxing champion of significance back in County Tipperary and he soon taught me to box a little. I was never quite good enough in the ring to win in a conventional manner by out-boxing my opponent, and as the World Champion, Rocky Marciano would do, I would take a dozen blows to the head and body merely to get one of my own knock-out blows in. It was in the boxing ring that I learned to outfox when one cannot outbox!
In return for Tony’s boxing instructions, I taught him how to bop better, how to hold a tune, and also how to hold a girl properly around the waist on the dance floor without getting his face slapped for the offence of ‘roaming hands’. I also gave him several valuable pointers on how to chat up a good-looking girl he was interested in and hold her attention for a night of romance. I must say in all truth that Tony turned out to be no better at dancing, singing and womanising any better than I was at learning how to box correctly. Still, the one thing we could do in equal measure was drink and fight.
I dedicate this song to my oldest and best friend, Tony Walsh and his lovely wife, Lilly. Have a wonderful day, and I promise, Tony, never to let on to your wife what you really got up to in your wild years on Windy Bank Estate. Your old friend, Billy.
Love and peace Bill xxx