Johnny Cash impersonates Elvis Presley: A glorious version of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’
Johnny Cash, despite being one of the best-selling music artists of all time, missed his calling card as the king of Elvis Presley tribute acts.
Although primarily remembered as a country music icon, Cash successfully translated his music into rockabilly, blues, folk and, to put it quite simply, walked the line with good ol’ fashioned rock and roll—and none more so than a rendition of ‘Heartbreak Hotel’ for a gleaming crowd in 1959.
While the paths of Cash and Elvis crossed a number of times throughout their careers, the duo were never particularly close friends. Despite that, the admiration for each other’s work remained strong and, while writing in his autobiography, Johnny Cash said: “Elvis was so good. Every show I did with him, I never missed the chance to stand in the wings and watch. We all did. He was that charismatic.”
Detailing his first meeting Elvis at a show in Memphis back in 1954, Cash wrote: “The first time I saw Elvis, singing from a flatbed truck at a Katz drugstore opening on Lamar Avenue, two or three hundred people, mostly teenage girls, had come out to see him.
“With just one single to his credit, he sang those two songs over and over. That’s the first time I met him.”
The duo would later grow closer in the years that followed as their audience interlinked and, in 1959, Cash was booked as the opening act for a high-profile US tour. Apparently, each night he opened the show, Cash would “impersonate his friend and touring partner, and then Elvis would come out and do the same. Two characters just having a good ol’ time whilst simultaneously creating the genre of rock and roll.”