hound dog

Hound Dog (song)

"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and originally recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton in 1952. Other early versions illustrate the differences among blues, country, and rock and roll in the mid 1950s. The 1956 remake by Elvis Presley is the best known version. This is the version that is #19 on Rolling Stone's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. "Hound Dog" was also recorded by 5 country singers in 1953 alone, and over 26 times through 1964. . From the 1970's onward, the song has appeared, or is heard, as a part of the soundtrack in numerous motion pictures, most notably in blockbusters such as American Graffiti, Grease, Forrest Gump, Lilo and Stitch and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

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. Thornton’s "Hound Dog" was the first record Leiber and Stoller produced themselves. They took over the session because their work had sometimes been misrepresented, and on this one they knew how they wanted the drums to sound; Johnny Otis was supposed to produce it, but they wanted him on drums. Otis received a writing credit on all 6 of the 1953 pressings. This 1953 Peacock Records release (#1612) was number one on the Billboard rhythm and blues charts for seven 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". Thornton's version is a slow, powerful, country blues.

The other musicians on this recording are Devonia Williams (piano), Albert Winston (bass), and Leard Bell (drums), and are listed as "Kansas City Bill & Orchestra".

1953 Country versions

Peacock released Thornton's version in March 1953. Five versions of the song were recorded on several different labels by "country" groups the very next month (April 1953):

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 ((TEEN 101 with "Move Me Baby" on the flip side, two of four songs the group did with Lowe that year). The regional popularity 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 TV performances and recording

Elvis Presley's first, apparently not very successful, appearance in Las Vegas, as an “extra added attraction”, was in the Venus Room of the New Frontier from April 23 through May 6, 1956. 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.

Drummer D.J. Fontana put it this way. "We took that from a band we saw in Vegas, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. They were doing the song kinda like that. We went out there every night to watch them. He'd say: "Let's go watch that band. It's a good band! That's where he heard "Hound Dog", and shortly thereafter he said: "Let's try that song"."

Presley first performed "Hound Dog" to a nation wide television audience on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, his second appearance with Berle. This performance included the upbeat version that would later be recorded, followed by a slow, bluesy rendering. Presley's movements were energetic and exaggerated. The reactions of young women in the studio audience were enthusiastic, as shown as part of the broadcast. Over 40,000,000 people saw the broadcast and the next day controversy exploded. Berle's network received many letters of protest. The various self appointed guardians of public morality attacked Elvis in the press. TV critics began a merciless campaign against Elvis making statements that; Elvis "is a no talent performer", he had a "caterwalling voice and nonsense lyrics", he was an "influence on juvenile deliquency", and began using the nickname "Elvis the Pelvis".

Elvis next appeared on national television singing "Hound Dog" on the July 1 Steve Allen Show. Steve Allen wrote: "When I booked Elvis, I naturally had no interest in just presenting him vaudeville-style and letting him do his spot as he might in concert. Instead we worked him into the comedy fabric of our program...We certainly didn't inhibit Elvis' then-notorious pelvic gyrations, but I think the fact that he had on formal evening attire made him, purely on his own, slightly alter his presentation." Presley wore a tuxedo and sang an abbreviated version of Hound Dog to an actual top hat-wearing basset hound.

The morning after the "Steve Allen Show" performance, the studio version was recorded for RCA Victor by Elvis' regular band of Scotty Moore on lead guitar (with Elvis usually providing rhythm guitar), Bill Black on bass, D.J. Fontana on drums and backing vocals from the Jordanaires. Presley recorded this version along with "Don't Be Cruel" and "Any Way You Want Me" on July 2 1956 at RCA's New York City studio. The producing credit was given to RCA's Steve Sholes, however the studio recordings reveal that Elvis produced the songs (as well as most of the RCA recording sessions) himself, which is verified by the band members. Presley insisted on getting the song exactly the way he wanted it, recording 30 takes of the song before finally settling on take number 28.

Don't Be Cruel (G2WW-5936) was the flip side of the "Hound Dog" single (G2WW-5935), released on July 13 1956. Both sides of the record topped the charts independently, a rare feat. The single also topped all three extant Billboard charts: pop, country & western, and rhythm & blues, the first record in history to do so.

On September 9, with the song topping the US charts, Presley performed an abbreviated version of "Hound Dog" on the Ed Sullivan Show hosted by Charles Laughton. After performing "Ready Teddy", he introduced the song with the following statement, “Friends, as a great philosopher once said...” Elvis's first time on the Sullivan show was an event that drew some 60 million TV viewers. During his second Sullivan Show appearance, October 28, he introduced the song thusly (although unable to keep a straight face). “Ladies and gentlemen, could I have your attention please. Ah, I’d like to tell you we’re going to do a sad song for you. This song here is one of the saddest songs we’ve ever heard. It really tells a story friends. Beautiful lyrics. It goes something like this.” He then launched into a full version of the song. Elvis was shown in full during this performance. 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 starting in July 1956, it spent a record eleven weeks at #1. It stayed in the #1 spot until it was replaced by "Love Me Tender", also recorded by Elvis.

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.

Subsequent versions of "Hound Dog"

A partial list of “cover” versions of Hound Dog includes:

References

External links

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