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A family affair

Few things in life were as important to "Heartbreak Hotel" co-composer Mae Boren Axton as the concept of Family. A recurring theme of the book is the way in which the Borens and the Axtons impacted upon her life. Her mother, her father, her husband, and one of her brothers all had a significant part to play in the saga of "Heartbreak Hotel".

An intriguing side-story, however, is that of her elder son, Hoyt, who followed in the footsteps of his father (football and the navy), and also his mother (country music). Hoyt enjoyed a modest but successful career as a singer-songwriter beginning in the early 1960s, composing many popular songs. most notably "Never Been To Spain" which was recorded in 1972 by, of all people, Elvis Presley.

But Hoyt, like so many musicians, led a troubled life, and it's possible that he felt his mother's success overshadowed his own achievements. In fact, in 1964 he recorded his own version of "Heartbreak Hotel" and he virtually screamed his way through the famous song. It would be difficult to imagine a more disrespectful reading.

Twenty-five years later, though, it seemed as though he had made his peace with the track and taped a more sedate interpretation (in a style not dissimilar to that in which the song was originally written) and a cute video was made to coincide with its release in 1990. The short film, reproduced here, is notable for a brief cameo at the end by Mae, and Hoyt's admission, "That's a good song you wrote there, mom, thanks."

Had there also perhaps been friction between mother and son that was bookended by the two versions of the song? It's impossible to know for sure. But by the end of the decade, Hoyt and Mae would both be dead, and their legacies would be haunted by the song that Mae Boren Axton co-wrote for Elvis Presley.

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