Man who inspired 'Heartbreak Hotel' finally unmasked

Man who inspired 'Heartbreak Hotel' finally unmasked
El Paso Herald-Post from August 25, 1955
El Paso Herald-Post from August 25, 1955

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - The man who lived on Lonely Street may have finally been unmasked.

A journalism professor writing for Rolling Stone believes he uncovered the identity of the person who inspired Elvis Presley's first Number 1 hit.

Elvis released "Heartbreak Hotel" on January 27, 1956. It became Elvis' first song to sell a million copies.

However, the story behind the song has always been a bit of a mystery.

Writers Tommy Durden and Mae Axton said they took inspiration from a newspaper headline about a man who committed suicide and wrote a cryptic note describing himself as living on "lonely street."

Many researchers have dug into that story, but have not found any newspaper article that appears to fit the bill.

Randy Boswell said that is because the man who inspired the song, didn't commit suicide.

Boswell is a Carleton University journalism professor who uses historical newspapers to conduct research.

Boswell said the real inspiration behind Heartbreak Hotel is a man named Alvin Krolik.

Krolik was shot and killed while he tried to rob a liquor store in Texas. His story created some national headlines because it was not the first time Krolik has been in the news.

Several years earlier, he'd turned himself in to Chicago police saying he was tired of his life of crime. He was ready to give it all up. He said he'd been driven to a life of crime when he split with the love of his life.

Krolik even wrote some memoirs and an unpublished autobiography which referred to his life as a journey down "lonely street."

Fast forward two years, Krolik apparently spiraled back into a life of crime. He went into a Texas liquor store and demanded money.

The liquor store's owner fired nine shots from two of the eight pistols he kept behind his counter. The shooting was ruled a justifiable homicide.

Journalists in Texas were able to connect the dots between the man killed during the attempted robbery and the man who confessed to Chicago police two years earlier and said his heartbreaking love life drove him to crime.

The El Paso Herald-Post published a story with the following headline: 'Killing Ends Heartache: Story of Person Who Walked Lonely Street.'

Click here to read more about Krolik and the timeline leading up to the release of Heartbreak Hotel.

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