When I was a 13-year-old seventh-grader, I couldn’t have cared less about Elvis Presley. However, everything changed when I experienced my Elvis epiphany later that year. The song that played a significant role in this transformation was none other than “Return to Sender.” It was constantly on the radio that fall, and when I bought the 45 at the Music Box record shop in downtown Spokane, it became my first Elvis record. Today, “Return to Sender” holds a special place in my heart as one of my most cherished Elvis memories.
The Story behind “Return to Sender”
“Return to Sender” was co-written by the Hall of Fame songwriter Otis Blackwell, who had previously penned other Presley classics such as “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up.” In an interview, Blackwell shared how he came up with the title for the song. He explained that he always aimed for unique titles and that the song was born around that concept. Interestingly, it was Colonel Parker who brought “Return to Sender” to Elvis, despite his reputation for keeping good material away from the King.
The Impact of “Return to Sender”
The song found its way into the 1962 film “Girls! Girls! Girls!” and was performed by Elvis in a nightclub scene. It’s a bit amusing to watch Elvis twist while singing this now-iconic hit, as the Twist was a popular dance fad at the time. The recording itself featured talented musicians, including Boots Randolph on the baritone saxophone and the backing vocals of the Jordanaires.
“Return to Sender” had an impressive run on the charts. It entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #68 on October 20, 1962, and two weeks later, it reached the top 10, where it stayed for 10 weeks. While it never reached the #1 spot, it did top Cashbox’s Top 100 Singles chart for one week. The song’s success solidified Elvis Presley’s position as a chart-topping artist during the peak of his career.
The Beginning of a Downward Spiral
Although “Return to Sender” marked the end of Elvis’s remarkable streak of 24 consecutive major Hot 100 hits, it also signified the beginning of a decline in his chart performance. The Beatles’ rise to dominance in the U.S. charts played a part, but the departure of key songwriters who had previously worked with Elvis also impacted his success. As a result, many of his subsequent singles were cover tunes, RCA rejects, or soundtrack songs, leading to a less memorable period in his musical journey.
“Return to Sender” – Forever Associated with Elvis Presley
Decades after his passing, two expressions instantly bring Elvis Presley to mind in the public consciousness: “All Shook Up” and “Return to Sender.” In fact, on what would have been Elvis’s 58th birthday, the U.S. Postal Service released a commemorative stamp featuring his image. Stamp collectors eagerly sent envelopes marked with the “return to sender” postal marking in the hopes of getting their letters postmarked with the first-day issue.
For me, “Return to Sender” will always hold a special place in my heart. It was the song that made me truly listen to an Elvis Presley record and opened my eyes to his musical genius. If you’re curious to explore more about Elvis’s music and legacy, visit All about Elvis for a comprehensive journey into the world of the King!
Article by Alan Hanson | June 2011