Elvis’s Top 5 Singles Streak
Unmatched in Rock’s Vinyl Era

Recently, a reader of elvis-history-blog.com asked, “In your opinion, what was Elvis’s greatest accomplishment on the record charts?” I had to think about that one for a while. Elvis certainly had impressive overall numbers on Billboard’s “Top/Hot 100” charts. For instance, he charted a total of 134 titles between 1956 and 1977. Of them, 14 reached #1, 32 made the top 5, and 38 cracked the top 10.

His most impressive achievement, however, has to be the amazing seven-year streak he put together on the singles chart after signing with RCA in 1955. All of his first 24 RCA standard single releases charted in the top 5 on Billboard’s singles chart. Think about that … 24 straight major hit singles over 7 years! No other recording act during the vinyl era can even approach that record. (I address the “What about the Beatles?” question later on.)

Below is a list of those 24 consecutive Elvis top 5 singles. First, some ground rules. These were part of RCA's regularly scheduled Elvis single releases from 1956-1962. Many other Presley recordings appeared on the singles chart during those years. Since all of them had previously appeared either on Elvis’s Sun records, on his RCA extended play records, or on his first RCA LP, they were not part of the label’s regular issue of new Presley singles.

(Each use of the term “chart” in the following list refers either to Billboard’s “Top 100” or to its successor, the “Hot 100,” which debuted in August 1958.)

1. “Heartbreak Hotel” — It took two months to get there, but “Heartbreak Hotel” reached #1 on May 5, 1956. It stayed at the top of the chart for 7 weeks and was inside the top 5 for 11 weeks. Still, critics were convinced he was a flash in the pan.

2. “I Want You, I Need You, I Love You” — It didn’t have the fire power of its predecessor, but Elvis’s follow up to “Heartbreak Hotel” was still able to reach #3 on July 28, 1956.

3. “Hound Dog” / “Don’t Be Cruel” — It would be Elvis’s biggest two-sided hit. “Hound Dog” reached #2 on September 1, 1956. A week later “Don’t Be Cruel” jumped over it into the #1 spot. “Don’t Be Cruel” stayed at the top of the chart for 7 weeks.

4. “Love Me Tender” — On November 17, 1956, “Love Me Tender” reached #1 in only its 5th week on the chart. It sat atop the “Top 100” for 3 weeks. It also spent 5 weeks at #2.

5. “Too Much” — Elvis’s first 1957 single, “Too Much” settled at #2 on March 2. It remained there for 4 weeks, unable to knock Tab Hunter’s horrid version of “Young Love” out of the top spot.

6. “All Shook Up” — It only took 3 weeks for “All Shook Up” to reach #1 on April 20, 1957. There it stayed for 8 weeks, the longest run at #1 for any Presley single. It spent a total of 30 weeks on the chart, another personal best for Elvis.

7. “Teddy Bear” — After reaching the top 5 in only its second week on the chart, “Teddy Bear” started a 7-week run at #1 on July 1, 1957. It had the best chart run of any Presley soundtrack single.

8. “Jailhouse Rock” — The last of Elvis’s 1957 trio of blockbuster hits, “Jailhouse Rock” zoomed to the top of the chart on November 4, 1957. It spent 10 weeks in the top 5, with 6 of those at #1.

9. “Don’t” — When it reached the top on March 10, 1958, “Don’t” became Presley’s fourth straight #1 single. Two weeks later Elvis dropped out of sight when he was drafted into the army.

10. “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” — The first single release during the army years, “Wear My Ring Around Your Neck” peaked at #3 on May 19, 1958. It spent six weeks inside the top 5.

11. “Hard Headed Woman” — This single from the soundtrack of King Creole was on the chart when Billboard transitioned from the “Top 100” to the “Hot 100” in 1958. On July 21 it peaked at #2 on the “Top 100.” It was at #4 on August 4, 1958, when the “Hot 100” appeared for the first time.

12. “One Night” — This single made in clear that Elvis could still reach the top 5 despite being overseas and out of sight. “One Night” spent six weeks in the top 5, peaking at #4 on December 15, 1958. Its flip side, “I Got Stung,” was also a top 10 hit.

13. “A Fool Such As I” / “I Need Your Love Tonight” — This was the second of three Elvis singles with both sides charting in the top 5. “A Fool Such As I” reached #2 on April 27, 1959, after “I Need Your Love Tonight” had peaked at #4 a week earlier.

14. “A Big Hunk O’ Love” — The last single of Elvis’s army years, “A Big Hunk O’ Love” topped the chart for 2 weeks, beginning on August 10, 1959. It started what would be a streak of 5 consecutive #1 singles for Elvis.

15. “Stuck on You” — Elvis’s last real rock ’n’ roll single for a while spent 4 weeks at #1, starting on April 25, 1960. “Stuck on You” spent 3 more weeks at #2 after The Everly Brothers’ “Cathy’s Clown” took over the top spot.

16. “It’s Now or Never” — Elvis transitioned into mainstream pop music successfully when “It’s Now or Never” began a 5-week run at #1 on August 15, 1960. At age 25, Presley thereafter would dabble in rock ’n’ roll only occasionally on his future single releases.

17. “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” — The last real blockbuster hit of Presley’s career, “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” sat atop the “Hot 100” for 6 weeks, beginning on November 28, 1960. Among Elvis’s ballad singles, only “Love Me Tender” spent more weeks in the top 5.

18. “Surrender” — The last of Presley’s 5 straight #1s, “Surrender” took over the top spot on March 20, 1961. Ironically, with only 12 total weeks on the “Hot 100,” it exited the chart faster than any other Elvis single to that point.

19. “I Feel So Bad” — This one nearly ended Elvis’s consecutive string of top 5 singles. On June 5, 1961, it got to #5 for just one week before quickly fading off the “Hot 100” after just 9 weeks on the chart.

20. “Little Sister” / “His Latest Flame” — Charging up to #4 on September 18, 1961, “His Latest Flame” then quickly retreated down the chart. When “Little Sister” peaked at #5 on October 2, the single became the third and final one of Elvis’s career to have both sides reach the top 5.

21. “Can’t Help Falling in Love”— Elvis’s last top 5 ballad, “Can’t Help Falling In Love” rose to the #2 spot on February 3, 1962. It spent a total of 6 weeks in the top 5 and became one of Presley’s signature songs.

 22. “Good Luck Charm” — When it reached #1 on April 21, 1962, no one could have guessed that it would be 7 years before Elvis would have another chart topper. “Good Luck Charm” spent 2 weeks at #1 and a total of 6 weeks in the top 5.

23. “She’s Not You” — One side of Elvis’s weakest single to date, “She’s Not You” still managed to reach #5 on September 8, 1962. That was its only week in the top 5.

24. “Return to Sender” — One of Elvis’s most recognizable songs, “Return to Sender” should have topped the chart, but it just couldn’t knock The Four Seasons’ “Big Girls Don’t Cry” off its perch at #1. Beginning on November 17, 1962, “Return to Sender” spent 5 straight weeks at #2.

So there you have the most impressive string of 45 rpm singles by any recording artist during the rock era. (Elvis’s top 5 streak ended when his first 1963 single, “One Broken Heart for Sale,” stalled out at #11 on the “Hot 100.”) During the 7-year, 24-record run, Elvis had 13 #1s, 6 #2s, 2 #3s, 3 #4s, and 3 #5s.

Did The Beatles have a similar streak to match Presley's? Well, let’s see. The Beatles began their U.S. career on the Capitol label in 1964. They started off well with three #1 singles that year. However, none of their next three Capitol singles made it into the top 10. Then came a streak of 13 straight top 5s on Capitol through 1968. The Beatles then switched over to Apple Records for the last 5 singles of their career as a group. Four of those 5 charted inside the top 5.

Coincidently, during the 7-year period from 1964-1970, The Beatles’s two major labels issued 24 singles for the group, matching Elvis’s 7-year RCA release total from 1956-1962. If Beatle singles issued by other labels (Swan, Vee-Jay, Tollie), are included, the total number of top 5 single recordings for The Beatles jumps to 28 titles, one more than Elvis’s total during his 1956-1962 streak. But the longest streak of consecutive top 5 singles by The Beatles was 15, far below Elvis’s streak of 24.

After Elvis’s consecutive hit single streak ended in 1962, his success on the “Hot 100” became spotty, at best, for the next 7 years. Still, he had built such a strong fan base with his single records from 1956-1962, that his career was able to survive the dismal movies and generally disappointing record releases during the sixties. In 1969, the loyalty of Elvis’s fans was rewarded when he returned again to the top of the singles chart. — Alan Hanson | © September 2013

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"All of Elvis's first 24 RCA standard single releases charted in the top 5 on Billboard’s   singles chart … No other recording act during the vinyl era can even approach that record."