I read the news today

14 Feb 2016

On 24th April 1993, the BBC broadcast a new TV documentary produced by their Arena arts team, entitled "Tales of Rock 'n' Roll: Heartbreak Hotel".

 

It was the first episode in a series of programmes looking at the stories-behind-the-songs, examining the origins of several great pop records, and as Presley's hit was such an important 45, it was naturally chosen as the first episode.

 

It was an interesting programme (although it relied much too heavily on the testimony of notorious biographer Albert Goldman), but most interestingly it seemed to show for the first time the actual Miami Herald newspaper article that had been lost for almost thirty years, and which had supposedly inspired Elvis' amazing hit record.

 

The front page of the 1st October 1955 edition was shown on screen, and the camera zoomed in on the relevant aricle towards the bottom of the sheet. There was a picture of the suicide victim's lost-love, and police were asking for help to identify the dead man. It all fit together perefctly in terms of story and legend. Indeed, in Peter Guralnick's acclaimed Elvis biography, "Last Train to Memphis", published the following year, he made reference to this documentary in his end-notes.

 

Having watched this documentary during the early part of my own book research, I showed the relevant clip to a fellow researcher who instantly commented that the suicide article looked out of place on the page and didn't fit with the rest of the newspaper layout. I looked again and agreed.

 

So, I contacted Miami-Dade Library and asked them to check the 1st October 1955 edition of the Miami Herald and send me a photocopy of the article. The Librarian  found the relevant edition but assured me there was no suicide story on the front page, nor was there any reference within.

 

It would seem therefore, that the Arena article was faked. In fairness, the programme made no claim as to its authenticity, although it was obviously implied. But why would the BBC with its vast resources and reerach capabilities have felt the need to show a faked article? Why not just use the real one?

 

There is a tale to be told.

 

 

 

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