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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and orignally recorded by Willa Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Other early versions illustrate the differences among rhythm and blues, country, and rock and roll in the mid 1950s. The 1956 remake by Elvis Presley is the best known version. "Hound Dog" was also recorded by 5 country singers in 1953 alone, and over 26 times through 1964.

Big Mama Thornton version

The blues singer Big Mama Thornton's biggest hit was Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller's "Hound Dog," which she recorded in 1952. Johnny Otis produced the record, and he received a writing credit on all 6 of the 1953 pressings.

This 1953 Peacock Records release (#1612) held the number one spot in the Billboard rhythm and blues charts for seven [citation needed] weeks.

Thornton gave this account of how the original was created to Ralph Gleason. "They were just a couple of kids, and they had this song written on the back of a paper bag." She added a few interjections of her own, played around with the rhythm (some of the choruses have thirteen rather than twelve bars), and had the band bark and howl like hound dogs at the end of the song.

In fact, she interacts constantly in a call and response fashion during a one minute long guitar "solo" by Pete Lewis . Her vocals include lines such as: "Aw, listen to that ole hound dog howl.. OOOOoooow", "Now wag your tail", Aw, get it, get it, get it". The other musicians on this recording are Devonia Williams (piano), Albert Winston (bass), and Leard Bell (drums). The only line that could be considered to have a sexual connotation is, "You ain't lookin' for a woman, all you lookin' for is a home", which is sung once near the end of the song.

King of Rock'n'Roll Thornton's version is a slow, powerful country blues.

Bernie Lowe, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys

Bernie Lowe suspected that "Hound Dog" could potentially have greater appeal, and asked Freddie Bell of Freddie Bell and the Bellboys to rewrite the lyrics to appeal to a broader radio audience. "Snoopin' round my door" was replaced with "cryin' all the time", and "You can wag your tail, but I ain't gonna feed you no more" was replaced by "You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine." This new version of "Hound Dog" was recorded on Lowe's Teen Records in 1955 (one of four songs the group did with Lowe that year). The regional popluarity of this release, along with the group's showmanship, yielded both a tour, and an engagement in the Las Vegas Sands Hotel's Silver Queen Bar.

Elvis Presley version

Elvis Presley's first, apparently not very successful, appearance in Las Vegas, as an "extra added attraction", was at the New Frontier from April 23 through May 6, 1955. Freddie Bell and the Bellboys were the hot act in town, and Elvis went to the Sands to take in their show. Elvis not only enjoyed the show, but also loved their reworking of 'Hound Dog' and asked Freddie if he had any objections to him recording his own version. By May 16 Elvis had added "Hound Dog" to his live performances.

Presley recorded this version on July 2, 1956 at RCA's New York City studio, and introduced it on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, his gyrations while performing it elliciting some 800,000 letters of protest to Berle. Because of the controversy, Steve Allen, whose show ran opposite to Ed Sullivan's on prime-time television, requested Presley to tone down his version of it when he appeared on his program. When Presley performed on the Allen show, Presley was featured wearing a tuxedo and singing the song to an actual top hat-wearing basset hound.

"Hound Dog" was the B-side of the "Don't Be Cruel" single that was released on July 13, 1956. On September 9, with the song still topping the US charts, Presley sang a short, but cleverly introduced version of it on the first of his three appearences on the Ed Sullivan Show. Presley's first time on the Sullivan show was an event that drew some 60 million TV viewers. Presley's second appearance on Sullivan's program was on October 28th, he sang a full version of it. Again, Presley drew more than 60 million viewers.

Presley's "Hound Dog" sold over 4 million copies in the United States on its first release. It was his best selling single and in July 1956, it spent eleven weeks at #1.

In March, 2005, Q magazine placed Presley's version at number 55 in its list of the Q Magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it #19 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time- the highest ranked of Presley's eleven entries.

Hound Dog (Ed Sullivan 1956) Hound Dog (Ed Sullivan 1956)

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Lyrics for Hound Dog

performed by Elvis Presley

(Jerry Leiber — Mike Stoller)

You ain't nothin' but a hound dog
cryin' all the time.
You ain't nothin' but a hound dog
cryin' all the time.

Well, you ain't never caught a rabbit
and you ain't no friend of mine.

When they said you was high classed,
well, that was just a lie.
When they said you was high classed,
well, that was just a lie.
You ain't never caught a rabbit
and you ain't no friend of mine.

1953 Country versions

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