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Return to Sender (song)

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"Return to Sender"
Single by Elvis Presley
from the album Girls! Girls! Girls!
B-side"Where Do You Come from"
ReleasedOctober 2, 1962
RecordedMarch 27, 1962
StudioRadio Recorders, Hollywood
LabelRCA Victor[1]
Producer(s)Steve Sholes and Chet Atkins[1]
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"King of the Whole Wide World" / "Home Is Where the Heart Is"
"Return to Sender" / "Where Do You Come From"
"One Broken Heart for Sale" / "They Remind Me Too Much of You"
Music video
"Return to Sender" (audio) on YouTube

"Return to Sender" is a song recorded by American singer Elvis Presley and featured in the film Girls! Girls! Girls!. The song was written by Winfield Scott and Otis Blackwell to suit Presley's rock and roll musical style. The singer laments his relationship with a spiteful partner. Released on October 2, 1962, and published by Elvis Presley Music, the song became a commercial hit and received praise for its lyricism and melody.

The song peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart,[2] and was the UK Christmas number one in 1962. It was also the first Christmas number one in the Irish Singles Chart. In the United States, "Return to Sender" reached No. 2 on the American Billboard singles chart, kept out of the top spot by The Four Seasons' "Big Girls Don't Cry."[3] However, the song reached No. 1 on the rival Cash Box and Music Vendor singles charts. "Return to Sender" also went to No. 5 on the R&B charts.[4] The single was certified platinum by the RIAA for sales in excess of one million units in the US.

Background and recording[edit]

"Return to Sender" was written especially for the soundtrack Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962), which aimed to serve as a comeback for Elvis Presley.

Songwriter Otis Blackwell had already written several of Presley’s biggest hits, including "Don't Be Cruel" (1956) and "All Shook Up" (1957). Winfield Scott was a frequent collaborator with Blackwell, and writer of the hit song “Tweedle Dee” (1954).[5] So it was logical for Freddy Bienstock, vice president of the record company Hill & Range, to turn to Blackwell and Scott to write songs for Presley's films,[6] and for the Presley vehicle Girls! Girls! Girls! (1962) specifically. Following the # 5 pop hit of Presley's pop ballad "She's Not You" (1962), the record company wanted him to return to the rock and roll genre without alienating fans who enjoyed his crooning.[7]

Scripts for Presley films would note places where a song was to be inserted into the film as well as suggested titles and genres for the songs. While other songwriters would adhere to those notes, Blackwell and Scott would not, because they were used to the creative freedom of the rhythm and blues field. They decided to write a great song without any concern about whether fitted into the film's storyline.[8] After penning a track about fishing, entitled "Coming in Loaded", as well as other material they disliked, the two gave up on writing other songs until they found inspiration in a returned piece of mail. A demo that they had sent to a record company was returned to them with the words "Return to sender! No such person! No such zone!" stamped onto it. Blackwell and Scott decided to use those phrases as lyrics in a song about a failing relationship between "a spiteful woman and a heartbroken man".[9]

Within only nine months of its release, it was the use of the word "zone" that became an anachronism when the USPOD or United States Post Office Department (the forerunner of the United States Postal Service) replaced all zones in 1963 with the nationwide rollout of ZIP Codes, thus making the song seem dated before its time, although 60 plus years later it is less of a footnote and an accepted part of the song, assumed[by whom?] to be used for rhyming purposes.[citation needed]

Recording and composition[edit]

On March 27, 1962, Presley was handed the task of recording all thirteen songs on the Girls! Girls! Girls! soundtrack. He was unenthusiastic about the material and went through the recording process at a quickened pace. The Jordanaires, Dudley Brooks, D. J. Fontana, and Scotty Moore were in the studio, and other instrumentation on the album was provided by Boots Randolph on saxophone, Ray Siegel on bass guitar, Barney Kessel and Tiny Timbrell on guitar, and Hal Blaine and Bernie Mattinson on specialty drums. When he began singing "Return to Sender," Presley became more energetic. He found the song easy to perform and recorded it in just two takes, modelling his vocal stylings on Blackwell's. While watching Presley perform the track, Moore and Fontana felt that the "old magic" of the singer's earlier work had returned.[10]

"Return to Sender" is a pop[11] and rock and roll song[12] with a length of two minutes and nine seconds,[11] and an up-tempo, "gently rock[ing]" beat.[10] Per Presley's decision, the lead instrument of the song's chorus is Randolph's saxophone rather than a guitar, which was more characteristic of Presley's music.[13] According to Ace Collins in Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis's #1 Hits, the track "recaptured the happy enthusiasm and unbridled joy" of the rock and roll music of the mid-1950s.[14] The song is about a heartbroken man whose mail to his lover is always returned unopened. Collins also noted a contrast between the song's joyful instrumentation and its lyrics, which are those of a "woeful ballad".[14]

Critical reception[edit]

NME said that "Return to Sender" and another song penned by Blackwell, Jerry Lee Lewis' "Great Balls of Fire" (1957), stand as "some of the most enduring classics in the rock and roll canon".[12] In his book Untold Gold: The Stories Behind Elvis's #1 Hits, Ace Collins claims that while Blackwell wrote hits like Lewis' "Breathless" (1958) and "Fever" by Peggy Lee (1958), and influenced artists like Presley and Stevie Wonder, "it is doubtful that he ever wrote anything quite as innovative as 'Return to Sender'."[15] Thomas Ward of AllMusic praised the song's lyrics, production, and melody, as well as Presley's vocal performance. Ward concluded his review by saying that "Although 'Return To Sender' is not a huge artistic triumph, it's a great pop song that still sounds good to modern audiences".[11]


Gerri Granger later recorded an answer song: "Don't Want Your Letters". The song was arranged and conducted by Bert Keyes, and was released on the single Big Top 45–3128.[16]

"Return to Sender" came back into vogue in 1993 when the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative postage stamp honoring Presley on what would have been his 58th birthday. Fans mailed envelopes franked with first-day issues of this stamp to fictitious addresses so that they would receive their letters back, marked with the words "return to sender".[17]

The phrase "Return to Sender" was engraved on the coffin of Freddie Starr, a comedian and Elvis impersonator.[18]


Weekly charts[edit]

Certifications and sales[edit]

Region Certification Certified units/sales
Norway 25,000[31]
United Kingdom (BPI)[32] Silver 200,000
United States (RIAA)[33] Platinum 1,000,000^

^ Shipments figures based on certification alone.
Sales+streaming figures based on certification alone.


  1. ^ a b c Rice, Jo (1982). The Guinness Book of 500 Number One Hits (1st ed.). Enfield, Middlesex: Guinness Superlatives Ltd. p. 67. ISBN 0-85112-250-7.
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. pp. 144–5. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.
  3. ^ "Top 100 Songs | Billboard Hot 100 Chart". Billboard. December 15, 1962. Retrieved June 30, 2019.
  4. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 468.
  5. ^ "Tweedle Dee". SecondHandSongs. Retrieved July 2, 2023.
  6. ^ Biszick-Lockwood 2010, p. 220-221.
  7. ^ Collins 2005, p. 190-191.
  8. ^ Biszick-Lockwood 2010, p. 221.
  9. ^ Collins 2005, p. 191-192.
  10. ^ a b Collins 2005, p. 194.
  11. ^ a b c Ward, Thomas. "Elvis Presley - Return to Sender". AllMusic. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  12. ^ a b "Otis Blackwell Dies". NME. May 8, 2002. Archived from the original on August 14, 2019. Retrieved August 14, 2019.
  13. ^ Collins 2005, p. 194-195.
  14. ^ a b Collins 2005, p. 195.
  15. ^ Collins 2005, p. 192-193.
  16. ^ "Gerri Granger - Don't Want Your Love Letters / Ain't It Funny - Bigtop - USA - 45-3128". 45cat. Retrieved April 5, 2014.
  17. ^ Humphries 2003, p. 105.
  18. ^ Youngs, Ian (June 13, 2019). "Freddie Starr funeral: Red roses and Elvis tributes as fans say farewell". BBC News. Retrieved August 15, 2019.
  19. ^ "Elvis Presley – Return to Sender" (in Dutch). Ultratop 50.
  20. ^ "Elvis Presley – Return to Sender" (in French). Ultratop 50.
  21. ^ "The Irish Charts – Search Results – Return to Sender". Irish Singles Chart.
  22. ^ "Elvis Presley". Flavour of New Zealand. Archived from the original on January 11, 2022. Retrieved July 23, 2022.
  23. ^ "Elvis Presley – Return to Sender" (in Dutch). Single Top 100.
  24. ^ "Elvis Presley – Return to Sender". VG-lista.
  25. ^ Hallberg, Eric (1993). Eric Hallberg presenterar Kvällstoppen i P 3: Sveriges radios topplista över veckans 20 mest sålda skivor 10. 7. 1962 - 19. 8. 1975. Drift Musik. p. 243. ISBN 9163021404.
  26. ^ Hallberg, Eric; Henningsson, Ulf (1998). Eric Hallberg, Ulf Henningsson presenterar Tio i topp med de utslagna på försök: 1961 - 74. Premium Publishing. p. 313. ISBN 919727125X.
  27. ^ "Elvis Presley – Return to Sender". Swiss Singles Chart.
  28. ^ "Elvis Presley: Artist Chart History". Official Charts Company.
  29. ^ "Elvis Presley Chart History (Hot 100)". Billboard.
  30. ^ "Offiziellecharts.de – Elvis Presley – Return to Sender" (in German). GfK Entertainment charts.
  31. ^ Erikson, Espen (May 25, 1963). "Norse Warm Up To Album Product". Billboard. Vol. 75, no. 21. p. 46. Retrieved February 13, 2022.
  32. ^ "British single certifications – Elvis Presley – Return to Sender". British Phonographic Industry. Retrieved April 9, 2021.
  33. ^ "American single certifications – Elvis Presley – Return to Sender". Recording Industry Association of America.


External links[edit]