Written by: Elvis Presley & Vera Watson
Billboard Hot 100: #1
From Rolling Stone:
“Love Me Tender” was the theme song from the first Elvis movie. It also represented a brand-new sound for the King. He sang in his softest voice, accompanied only by his own acoustic guitar. The melody came from the Civil War-era ballad “Aura Lee,” adapted by the movie’s musical director, Ken Darby, who gave credit to Watson, his wife.
The King performed “Love Me Tender” on the The Ed Sullivan Show 9 September 1956, shortly before the single’s release and about a month before the movie…was released, for which the song was originally recorded. (This was Presley’s only movie that he died in.) On the following day, RCA received 1 million advance orders for the song, making it a gold record before it was even released. The studio, 20th Century Fox, originally wanted to call the movie “The Reno Brothers” but instead re-titled it to “Love Me Tender” to capitalize on the song’s popularity.
Movie producer Hal Wallis would not allow Presley’s regular band made up of Scotty Moore, Bill Black, and D.J. Fontana to play on the soundtrack. Instead, The Ken Darby Trio provided the musical backing with Red Robinson on drums, Charles Prescott on bass, Vita Mumolo on guitar, and Jon Dodson on background vocals, with Presley providing only lead vocals.
When asked why he credited his wife as co-songwriter along with Presley, Darby responded, “Because she didn’t write it either.”