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"Hound Dog"
Single by Big Mama Thornton
B-side "Night Mare" [1][2]
Released March 1953
Format 78 RPM 10" single
Recorded August 13, 1952
Los Angeles
Genre Blues
Length 2:52
Label Peacock Records
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Johnny Otis
Big Mama Thornton singles chronology
Everytime I Think Of You
(1952)
Hound Dog
(1953)
Cotton Pickin' Blues
(1953)

"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. It was originally recorded by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton on August 13, 1952 in Los Angeles and released by Peacock Records in February 1953. "Hound Dog" was Thornton's only hit record, spending 14 weeks in the R&B charts, including seven weeks at #1. It sold between 500,000 and 2 million copies. Credited with contributing to the evolution of R&B into rock, in February 2013, Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

The best-known version of "Hound Dog" is the July 1956 recording by Elvis Presley that is ranked no. 19 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Presley's version, which sold an estimated 10 million copies globally, was his best-selling song, and "an emblem of the rock 'n' roll revolution".[3] It was simultaneously no. 1 on the US pop, country, and R&B charts in 1956, and topped the pop chart for 11 weeks—a record that stood for 36 years. In 1988 Presley's original 1956 RCA recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Other early versions illustrate the differences among blues, country, and rock and roll in the mid-1950s. "Hound Dog" was recorded by six country singers in 1953 alone, and over 26 times through 1964. By 1984, there were at least 85 different cover versions of the song, making it "the best known and most often recorded Rock & Roll song".[4] The Leiber & Stoller official website lists 266 different versions of "Hound Dog", but acknowledges that its list is incomplete.

Since its release, "Hound Dog" has been at the center of many lawsuits, including disputes over authorship, royalties, and copyright infringement by the many answer songs released by such artists as Rufus Thomas and Roy Brown. From the 1970s onward, the song has been prominently featured in numerous films, most notably in Grease, Forrest Gump, Lilo & Stitch, A Few Good Men, Hounddog, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Nowhere Boy.

Background and composition[edit]

On August 12, 1952, R&B bandleader Johnny Otis invited 19-year-old songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to his home to meet blues singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, a "foul-mouthed three-hundred pound R&B singer".[5] Thornton had been signed by Don Robey's Houston-based Peacock Records the year before, and after two failed singles, Robey had enlisted Otis to reverse her fortunes.[6] After hearing Thornton rehearse several songs, Leiber and Stoller "forged a tune to suit her personality—brusque and badass".[5] In an interview in Rolling Stone in April 1990, Stoller elaborated: "She was a wonderful blues singer, with a great moaning style. But it was as much her appearance as her blues style that influenced the writing of 'Hound Dog' and the idea that we wanted her to growl it."[7] Leiber recalled: "We saw Big Mama and she knocked me cold. She looked like the biggest, baddest, saltiest chick you would ever see. And she was mean, a 'lady bear,' as they used to call 'em. She must have been 350 pounds, and she had all these scars all over her face. I had to write a song for her that basically said, 'Go fuck yourself.' But how to do it without actually saying it? And how to do it telling a story? I couldn't just have a song full of expletives."[7] To resolve this dilemma, "Leiber imagined Big Mama admonishing an unfaithful lover", and attempted to find a suitable "low down, dirty snub".[5] In 1999, Leiber said, "I was trying to get something like the Furry Lewis phrase 'Dirty Mother Furya'. I was looking for something closer to that but I couldn't find it, because everything I went for was too coarse and would not have been playable on the air."[8] Using a "black slang expression referring to a man who sought a woman to take care of him",[9] the song's opening line, "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog", was a euphemism, said Leiber, for "You ain't nothin' but a motherfucker."[7] The song, a Southern blues lament,[10] is "the tale of a woman throwing a gigolo out of her house and her life":[11]

You ain't nothin' but a hound dog
Quit snoopin' 'round my door
You can wag your tail
But I ain't gonna feed you no more

The song was written for a woman to sing in which she berates "her selfish, exploitative man",[12] and in it she "expresses a woman's rejection of a man—the metaphorical dog in the title".[3] The song is characterized by sexual innuendo.[12] According to Iain Thomas, "'Hound Dog' embodies the Thornton persona she had crafted as a comedienne prior to entering the music business" by parading "the classic puns, extended metaphors, and sexual double entendres so popular with the bawdy genre."[13] R&B expert George A. Moonoogian concurs, calling it "a biting and scathing satire in the double-entendre genre" of 1950s rhythm and blues.[14]

Leiber and Stoller wrote the song "Hound Dog" in 12 to 15 minutes, with Leiber scribbling the lyrics in pencil on ordinary paper and without musical notation in the car on the way to Stoller's apartment.[5][15] Said Leiber, "'Hound Dog' took like twelve minutes. That's not a complicated piece of work. But the rhyme scheme was difficult. Also the metric structure of the music was not easy."[7] In their 2009 autobiography, Leiber describes the writing of "Hound Dog": "We ran back to Mike’s house on Norton—he was still living with his folks—and knocked out a song in a matter of minutes. It happened like lightning. We knew, as they say in the South, that this dog would hunt."[16]:62 According to Leiber, as soon as they reached the parking lot and Stoller's 1937 Plymouth, "I was beating out a rhythm we called the 'buck dance' on the roof of the car. We got to Johnny Otis's house and Mike went right to the piano…didn't even bother to sit down. He had a cigarette in his mouth that was burning his left eye, and he started to play the song."[17]

Big Mama Thornton's version (1952)[edit]

Of the many different versions of "Hound Dog", Leiber regarded the original recording by the 350-pound "blues belter" Big Mama Thornton as his favorite version,[18][15] while Stoller has said, "If I had to name my favorite recordings, I'd say they are Big Mama Thornton's 'Hound Dog' and Peggy Lee's 'Is That All There Is?'"[19] Thornton recorded "Hound Dog" at Radio Recorders Annex[16]:111-112 in Los Angeles on August 13, 1952, the day after its composition. It subsequently became her biggest hit.

Recording[edit]

According to Hound Dog: The Leiber and Stoller Autobiography, Thornton’s "Hound Dog" was the first record that Leiber and Stoller produced themselves, taking over from bandleader Johnny Otis. Said Stoller:

We were worried because the drummer wasn't getting the feel that Johnny had created in rehearsal.
"Johnny," Jerry said, "can't you play drums on the record? No one can nail that groove like you."
"Who's gonna run the session?" he asked. Silence. "You two?" he asked. "The kids are gonna run a recording session?"
"Sure," I said. "The kids wrote it. Let the kids do it."
Johnny smiled and said, 'Why not?'"[16]:65

So, Otis played drums on the recording,[20] replacing Leard "Kansas City" Bell. As Otis was still technically signed to Mercury Records at this time,[21] he used the pseudonym Kansas City Bill (after his drummer) on this record. Therefore, Otis, guitarist Pete Lewis, and bassist Albert Winston are listed as "Kansas City Bill & Orchestra" on the Peacock record labels.[22][23]

During the rehearsal, Leiber objected to Thornton's vocal approach, as she was crooning rather than belting it out. After a "testy exchange",[13] Leiber sang the song himself to demonstrate how they wanted it done. Said Stoller: "Big Mama heard how Jerry was singing the thing. She heard the rough-and-tough of the song and, just as important, the implicit sexual humor. In short, she got it."[16]:64

In an interview included on the album Leavin’ Chicago, Thornton credits the guitarist Pete Lewis for establishing the feel. In an interview with music writer Ralph J. Gleason, Thornton said: "They were just a couple of kids, and they had this song written on the back of a paper bag." Thornton claims that 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: "I started to sing the words and join in some of my own. All that talkin’ and hollerin’—that’s my own."[24] Thornton interacts constantly in a call and response fashion during a one-minute long guitar "solo" by Lewis. Her vocals include lines such as: "Aw, listen to that ole hound dog howl…OOOOoooow", "Now wag your tail", and "Aw, get it, get it, get it". Years later Thornton helped launch a controversy over "Hound Dog", claiming to have written it. However, when questioned further on the matter, Thornton explained that, while the song had been composed by Leiber and Stoller, she had transformed it: "They gave me the words, but I changed it around and did it my way". In his book Race, Rock, and Elvis, Michael T. Bertrand says that Thornton’s explanation "ingenuously stresses artist interpretation as the sole yardstick with which to measure authenticity".[25]

Thornton recorded two takes of the song, and the second take was released.[5][26] Habanera and Habanera-mambo variations can be found in this recording.[27] According to Robert Fink, Thornton's delivery has flexible phrasing making use of micro-inflections and syncopations. Over a steady backbeat, she starts out singing each line as one long upbeat. When the words change from "You ain't nothin' but a HOUND Dog", she begins to shift the downbeat around: "You TOLD me you was high-class / but I can SEE through that, You ain't NOTHIN' but a hound dog." Each has a focal accent which is never repeated.[28] According to Maureen Mahon:

Thornton's "Hound Dog" differed from most of the rhythm and blues records of the era in its spare arrangement. There are none of the honking saxophone solos or pounding piano flourishes that marked the R&B sound. Instead, supported by guitar, bass and drums, her resonant vocals dominate the foreground, conveying her haughty relief at being through with a trifling man. Thornton maintains a confident attitude, bringing the blues tradition of outspoken women into the R&B context and helping to set the style for rock and roll by putting sexuality and play with gender expectations in the foreground.[29]

Release and reception[edit]

In late February 1953 "Hound Dog" was released by Peacock (Peacock 1612),[5][26] with the song credited erroneously on the label to Leiber-Stroller [sic]-Otis.[30] On March 7, 1953, "Hound Dog" was advertised in Billboard, and reviewed positively on March 14, 1953 as a new record to watch, described as "a wild and exciting rhumba blues" with "infectious backing that rocks all the way".[31] According to Johnny Ace biographer James M Salem, "The rawness of the sound combined with the overt sexuality of the lyric made 'Hound Dog' an immediate smash hit in urban black America from late March to the middle of July 1953."[32] It spent fourteen weeks on the Billboard Rhythm and Blues charts,[33] seven of them at number one.[34] By April 30, 1953, Cash Box magazine listed the song as "the nation's top-selling blues record", and it topped the charts in New York, Chicago, New Orleans, San Francisco, Newark, Memphis, Dallas, Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Los Angeles.[35] The song was named as the Best Rhythm and Blues song of 1953 by Cash Box magazine,[5] and was ranked #3 on Billboard's Best Selling Rhythm & Blues Chart for 1953.[36]

Don Robey estimated that Thornton's version of "Hound Dog" sold between 500,000 and 750,000 copies, and would have sold more had its sales not been diluted by an abundance of cover versions and "answer songs".[32] The success of "Hound Dog" secured Peacock Record's place as a major independent label.[37] However, despite its success, neither the composers nor artist were compensated well for their efforts. According to Stoller, "Big Mama's 'Hound Dog' went to #1, sold a million copies, and did nothing for our bank statements. We were getting screwed."[16]:67 After suing Robey, "We were given an advance check for $1,200," said Stoller, "but the check bounced."[16]:66 As a result, Leiber and Stoller started their own label, Spark Records,[38][39] and publishing company, Quintet Music.[16]:67 Those ventures were successful, but Leiber and Stoller would only earn substantial royalties from "Hound Dog" when it was covered by Elvis Presley (RCA #6604) in July 1956.[18] Similarly, Thornton stated: "That song sold over two million records. I got one check for $500 and never saw another."[40][41] In 1984, she told Rolling Stone, "Didn't get no money from them at all. Everybody livin' in a house but me. I'm just livin."[42]

Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" is credited with "helping to spur the evolution of black R&B into rock music".[43] Brandeis University professor Stephen J. Whitefield, in his 2001 book, In Search of American Jewish Culture, regards "Hound Dog" as significant, as it "marked the success of race-mixing in music a year before the desegregation of public schools was mandated"[44] in Brown v. Board of Education.

Awards and accolades[edit]

In February 2013, Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" was inducted into Grammy Hall of Fame.[45] It has also received the following accolades:

  • #2 Acclaimed Music: The Top Songs From 1953[46]
  • #18 Women Who Rock - The Top 25 Girl-Power Anthems[47]
  • #36 Rolling Stone Fifty Essential Recordings From The Fifties (1990)[48]
  • #65 Acclaimed Music: The Top 200 Songs from the 1950s[49]
  • #675 Acclaimed Music: All Time Top 3000[50]

Chart succession[edit]

Preceded by
"(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean" by Ruth Brown
Billboard R&B National Best Sellers number-one single
(Big Mama Thornton version)
April 18, 1953 – June 6, 1953
(7 weeks)
Succeeded by
"I'm Mad" by Willie Mabon and His Combo

Responses (1953-1955)[edit]

Cover versions[edit]

Thornton’s "Hound Dog" was so popular that it spawned at least ten cover versions of the original before Elvis Presley recorded it in July 1956.[29] One of the earliest covers of Thornton's original was that of Little Esther, who recorded made an R&B cover on March 11, 1953 (b/w "Sweet Lips") on Federal Records (Federal 12126) that was released by April. While Federal's trade ads touted this release as the greatest record ever made by Little Esther,[51] in its review on April 11, 1953, Billboard opined: "It fails to build the same excitement of the original."[52]

Within a month of the release of Thornton's "Hound Dog", the following six country cover versions of the song—all credited erroneously to Leiber-Stoller (or Stroller [sic])-Otis—were released on several different labels by white artists:[3]

Additionally, there were a pop version in 1953 by Burl Ives with the Tony Mottola Sextet (Decca 9-28935). On February 24, 1954, The Cozy Cole All Stars recorded an instrumental version, "Hound Dog Special" (MGM 11794), a "spend off [sic] of Willie Mae Thornton's" version.[58]

Bass player Al Rex, who joined Bill Haley and His Comets in the fall of 1955,[59] told of performing the song when given the spotlight at live performances. "I used to do 'Hound Dog.' Haley would get mad at me if I'd do that. This was even before Presley did it. Haley didn't like those guys from Philadelphia that wrote the song."[60] As Leiber and Stoller were not from Philadelphia (and Haley recorded other Leiber and Stoller songs), Haley was probably referring to Freddie Bell and Bernie Lowe, of Philadelphia's Teen Records.

Answers and parodies[edit]

By the end of 1953 at least six "answer songs" that responded to 'Big Mama' Thornton's original version of "Hound Dog" were released.[32][3] According to Peacock's Don Robey, these songs were "bastardizations" of the original and reduced its sales potential.[61]

On March 8, 1953,[62] just two weeks after Thornton's original version was released,[63] and even before a review of "Hound Dog" had been published in Billboard,[64] Memphis disc jockey Rufus Thomas (adopting the nickname, "Rufus 'Hound Dog' Thomas") recorded "Bear Cat (The Answer To Hound Dog)" (Sun 181) at Sun Studios at 706 Union Avenue, Memphis. While retaining the same melody as "Hound Dog", Sun founder Sam Phillips wrote new lyrics,[12] in which he altered the gender of the singer, who bemoaned that his woman was a "bear cat", a Jazz Age slang term for "a hot-blooded or fiery girl".[65][66] The record's spare electric guitar work by Memphis bluesman Joe Hill Louis was greatly influenced by that of Pete Lewis on the original.[62] According to James M. Salem:

[I]nstead of barking and howling there is meowing and hissing in the background. In true answer form, the gender of the participants was reversed. This time the protagonist is male, directly challenging the worthless female of the original song—correcting her previous insults and re-directing them at her. "You know what you said about me woman?" says the man in open confrontation. "Well…You ain't nothin' but a bear cat, scratchin' at my door." All the irony and sarcasm of the original is captured in the answer, even the sexuality: "You can purr, pretty kitty, but I ain't gonna rub you no more."[61]

By the end of March, "Bear Cat" was in stores, prompting Billboard to described it as "the fastest answer song to hit the market".[62] It became both Thomas' and Sun Records' first hit,[67] eventually reaching #3 on the R&B charts.[12] However, as Phillips claimed a writing credit for the song,[68] a copyright-infringement suit ensued that nearly bankrupted Phillips' record label.[69][70][71][72]

A spate of answer records followed:

  • On March 18, Blues musician Roy Brown recorded "Mr. Hound Dog's in Town" for King Records (45-4627).[73] [74][75] While it had the same melody and many of the same lyrics as the original, Brown is credited as the sole writer.[76]
  • Charlie Gore and Louis Innis recorded "(You Ain't Nothin' But A Female) Hound Dog" (King 45-1212) for King Records on March 22.[77][78] This song was credited to Innis, Lois Mann, and Johnny Otis.[79]
  • Jake Porter's Combo Records released "Real Gone Hound Dog" (Combo 25), "an obscure 'answer' record to 'Hound Dog'",[80] by Chuck Higgins and His Mellotones' with a vocal by Higgins' brother "Daddy Cleanhead". The composition was credited to Higgins and Porter (as V. Haven).[81]

On March 28, Billboard reported that, "In an effort to combat what has become a rampant practice by small labels—the rushing out of answers which are similar in melody and/or theme to ditties which have become smash hits—many pubbers are now retaining attorneys. Common practice, of course is to regard the answer as an original. Currently publishers are putting up a fight to protect their originals from unauthorised or infringing answers."[82] In that same issue, Robey told Billboard he had notified the Harry Fox publishing agency "to issue Sun a license on 'Bear Cat' in order that Robey might collect a royalty".[62]

On April 4, 1953, Robey wrote to Phillips that, "unless contracts are signed and in the office of Mr. Harris Fox by Wednesday, April 8th, 1953, I will be forced to take immediate steps with Court Actions",[83] hoping "this will not cause any unfriendly relations, but please remember that I have to pay when I intrude upon the rights of others, and certainly must protect my own rights."[83] On April 11 Bob Rolontz reported in Billboard: "The answers to r&b tunes, which have become prolific with the many replies to such smash hits as 'I Don't Know', 'Mama' and 'Hound Dog' are being given a serious scrutiny by the original copyright holders of the tunes on the original hit waxings. It appears they do not think too highly of writing an answer to a hit unless a license is obtained and permission to write a parody is given by the publisher."[84] On the prior page, Peacock Records placed an advertisement promoting Thornton's release as "The Original Version of 'Hound Dog'", warning: "Beware of Imitations – Follow the Leader for Good Results" before reminding the reader: "The Original – The Best".[85] Two pages later, Intro Records touted the version by Tommy Duncan and the Miller Bros. as "Best of them all!!!"[86]

Their requests for payment having been ignored, Robey and two other music publishers initiated unprecedented legal proceedings in April against the record companies that released these competing songs, alleging copyright infringement.[61] As a result, Chess Records withdrew Brim's "Rattlesnake" from sale.[3] In the Memphis courts, Lion Publishing Co. sought royalties and treble damages, claiming "Bear Cat" was "a dead steal". In May, Phillips responded: "There's a lot of difference in the words. As for the tune, there's practically no melody, but a rhythm pattern", adding that it is hard to differentiate between any two 12-bar blues songs.[87] Despite the threat of legal action,[75] Brown's "Mr. Hound Dog's in Town" was still being advertised in Billboard on June 6,[88] and answer records such as "Call Me a Hound Dog" by Jimmie Wilson[89] and "New Hound Dog" by Curley Bridges with Frank Motley and His Motley Crew[3] kept coming.

On July 8 Robey wrote to Phillips again, thanking him "kindly for your co-operation in this matter",[62] but Phillips still refused to purchase a mechanical license for Thomas' "Bear Cat". Robey then instructed his company lawyer Irving Marcus to sue Phillips and Sun Records,[90][91] hoping to use this as a test case to determine the legal status of all answer songs.[92] Finding the tune and some of the lyrics of "Bear Cat" to be identical to those of "Hound Dog", in a "precedent-setting" decision the Court ruled against Phillips by July 25,[93][94][12] upheld the charges of plagiarism, and ordered him to pay 2% of all of the profits of "Bear Cat" plus court costs.[95] As this amounted to $35,000 compensation, Phillips was reduced to near bankruptcy, ultimately forcing him to sell Elvis Presley's Sun contract to RCA for $35,000 to raise the funds to settle his debts.[96] While earlier pressings of Sun 181 bore the caption "(The Answer To Hound Dog)" above the A-side title, as a result of the legal action this was removed from all later pressings. In the 1980s, Sam Phillips conceded: "I should have known better. The melody was exactly the same as theirs, but we claimed the credit for writing the damn thing".[62]

Meanwhile, in late July 1953, "Lion [Music] itself was in court defending the contention of Syd Nathan Records [sic] in Cincinnati that he had an interest in the song 'Hound Dog' and should have a fifty per cent share of its success."[62][94] Nathan, president of King Records, claimed that Valjo Music, one of King Records' publishing affiliates, had legal rights to the song as Johnny Otis, who claimed to be a co-author, was under exclusive contract to them at the time.[94] In response, Robey counter-sued both King Records and Valjo Music over Roy Brown's answer record, and also over Little Esther's cover record (King 12126).[94][97][61]

When the dust settled, the publishing for "Hound Dog" (in all variations) remained with Lion, and writing credit with Leiber and Stoller. In April, 1954, Billboard's Rolontz summed up the events thusly: "The year 1953 saw an important precedent set in regard to answer tunes … since the 'Hound Dog' decision, few record firms have attempted to 'answer' smash hits by other companies by using same tune with different lyrics."[98][62]

Later in 1953, Country satirical musicians Homer and Jethro released "(How Much Is) That Hound Dog in the Window",[99] a parody of the Bob Merrill-penned Patti Page hit, "(How Much Is) That Doggie in the Window?"[100][101] Billboard noted: "By coincidence or intent, the use of 'hound dog' also recognizes the top r&b record of the moment."[102]

"Rip offs"[edit]

Two records were released that were neither cover versions of nor answers to Thornton's release, yet used the same melody without any attribution to Leiber and Stoller. The first was Smiley Lewis's "Play Girl", credited to D. Bartholomew released by the Imperial Records label (Imperial 45-5234) in 1953.[103] In April 1955,[104] female impersonator Jesse "Big 'Tiny'" Kennedy recorded "Country Boy" accompanied by His Orchestra that was released by RCA's Groove Records (Groove 4G-0106) by May 21.[105][106] While credited solely to Kennedy, this song has a similar melody to "Hound Dog":[107] "'Country Boy' has a deceptively slouching flip on the ‘Hound Dog’ motif - this time with Tiny proclaiming proudly that he ‘ain’t nothing but a country boy’".[108]

In the early 1970s Robert Loers, owner of Dutch label Redita Records, found a song with the same melody as "Hound Dog" called "(You Ain't Nuttin' But a) Juicehead" on an anonymous acetate at Select-o-Hits, the Memphis distributorship owned by Sam Phillips' brother, Tom, where Sun artifacts were stored.

When Juice Head first appeared on a Redita Records LP [in 1974], it was credited to Rosco Gordon. But it's not Rosco. It simply is not him. Really. Even Rosco confirmed that. It might not even be a Memphis Recording Service demo. Just substitute the words "Hound Dog" for "Juice Head" and what have you got? Of course the inspiration for this song came from Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" or perhaps even from Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat". But the song's other parent is Eddie Vinson's slowed down "Juicehead Blues'" which harks to the previous decade....If indeed this originated from Sam Phillips' studio, it was nothing that Phillips needed to touch because it was another lawsuit waiting to happen."[109]

Philip H. Ennis sees "Two Hound Dogs", which was recorded on May 10, 1955 by Bill Haley & His Comets (Decca 29552),[110] as a response to Thornton's recording.[111] While not an answer record in the traditional sense, the lyric characterized "Rhythm" and "Blues" as the titular "Two Hound Dogs," an apparent testament to the stature of "Hound Dog."

Freddie Bell and the Bellboys' versions (1955-1956)[edit]

"Hound Dog"
Single by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys
B-side "Move Me Baby"[112]
Released 1955
Format 45 RPM 7" single
Recorded 1955, Philadelphia
Genre Rock & Roll
Length 2:45
Label Teen Records
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller

In 1955, Philadelphia-based Teen Records co-founder Bernie Lowe suspected that "Hound Dog" could potentially have greater appeal, but knew it had to be sanitized for mainstream acceptance, and so asked Freddie Bell of Freddie Bell and the Bellboys to rewrite the lyrics. "They replaced the racy with the ridiculous, turned a declaration of no more sex ('You can wag your tail but I ain't gonna feed you no more') into a reprimand for poor hunting skills ('Well, you ain't never caught a rabbit and you ain't no friend of mine').[113] Additionally, they replaced "Snoopin' 'round my door" with "cryin' all the time". The song was now literally about a dog.[3] Jerry Leiber, the original lyricist, found these changes irritating, saying that the rewritten words made "no sense".[114] However, "[n]ow street legal, the song was given a rock and roll rhythm and put on the Bell Boys' playlist."[113]

Described as "one of their trademark spoofs, a send-up of Big Mama Thornton's 'Hound Dog' complete with vulgar beat and mock drum fusillades", [115] their new version of "Hound Dog" was recorded in early 1955 on Teen Records (TEEN 101), "a subsidiary of the equally obscure Sound Records".[116] On the single's label, authorship is credited to Leibler [sic] and Stoller alone.[30] Their version of "Hound Dog" included the "most overused rhythmic pattern" of the 1950s, the three-beat Latin bass riff pioneered by Dave Bartholomew[117] that was also used in Rufus Thomas' "Bear Cat", a 1953 answer song to Thornton's original recording, and subsequently in Presley's 1956 recording.[118]

Their recording of "Hound Dog" was a local hit in the Philadelphia area, but attracted no national attention.[115] However, the regional popularity of this release, along with the group's showmanship, yielded a tour and also an engagement in the Las Vegas Sands Hotel's Silver Queen Bar.[119] The Bellboys' Vegas version of the song was a comedy-burlesque with show-stopping va-va-voom choreography.[120]

In May 1956, two months before Presley's release, Bell re-recorded the song in a more frantic version for the Mercury label,[57] however it was not released as a single. It was later included on Bell's 1957 album, Rock & Roll…All Flavors (Mercury Records MG 20289).[121][122] After the success of Presley's recording, "Bell sued to get some of the composer royalties because he had changed the words and indeed the song, and he would have made millions as the songwriter of Elvis’s version: but he lost because he did not ask Leiber & Stoller for permission to make the changes and thereby add his name as songwriter."[57]

Elvis Presley's version (1956)[edit]

"Hound Dog"
Single by Elvis Presley
B-side "Don't Be Cruel"
Released July 13, 1956
Format 45 rpm, 78 rpm single
Recorded July 2, 1956, New York City
Genre Rock and roll
Length 2:15
Label RCA Records
Writer(s) Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller
Producer(s) Steve Sholes
Elvis Presley singles chronology
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You"
(1956)
"Hound Dog"
(1956)
"Love Me Tender"
(1956)

Elvis Presley was aware of and appreciated Big Mama Thornton's original recording of "Hound Dog".[123] However, Ron Smith, a schoolfriend of Presley's, says he remembers Elvis singing along to a version by Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys[124] (actually the version by Tommy Duncan, who was the lead singer for the classic lineup of Bob Wills' Texas Playboys).[125] According to another schoolmate, the favorite r'n'b song of the boy-who-would-be-King was "Bear Cat (the Answer to Hound Dog)" by Rufus Thomas, a hero of Presley's.[126] Nevertheless, it was Freddie Bell and the Bellboys' performance of the song, with Bell's amended lyrics, that influenced Presley's decision to perform, and later record and release, his own version:

"Elvis's version of 'Hound Dog' (1956) came about, not as an attempt to cover Thornton's record, but as an imitation of a parody of her record performed by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys....The words, the tempo, and the arrangement of Elvis' 'Hound Dog' come not from Thornton's version of the song, but from the Bellboys'."[127]

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 Hotel and Casino from April 23 through May 6, 1956. At that time, Freddie Bell and the Bellboys were the hot act in town, and Presley went to the nearby Sands Hotel to take in their show. While he knew Thornton's original version,[123] Presley 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. When asked about "Hound Dog", Presley's drummer D. J. Fontana admitted: "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.'"[128]

Early performances[edit]

Soon after, Presley added "Hound Dog" to his live performances,[112][129] performing it as comic relief. "Hound Dog" became Elvis and Scotty and Bill's closing number for the first time on May 15, 1956 at Ellis Auditorium in Memphis,[130] during the Memphis Cotton Festival before an audience of 7,000.[131] Presley's performance, including the lyrics (which he sometimes changed)[132] and "gyrations", were influenced by what he had seen at the Sands. As the song always got a big reaction, it became the standard closer until the late 1960s.[133][131]

Television performances[edit]

Milton Berle Show[edit]

Presley first performed "Hound Dog" to a nationwide television audience on The Milton Berle Show on June 5, 1956, his second appearance with Berle. By this time, Scotty Moore had added a guitar solo, and D.J. Fontana had added a hot drum roll between verses of the song. Presley appeared for the first time on national television sans guitar. Berle later told an interviewer that he had told Elvis to leave his guitar backstage. "Let 'em see you, son", advised Uncle Miltie.[134] An upbeat version ended abruptly as Presley threw his arm back, then began to vamp at half tempo, "You ain't-a nuthin' but a hound dog, cuh-crying all the time. You ain't never caught a rabbit…" A final wave signaled the band to stop. Elvis pointed threateningly at the audience, and belted out, "You ain't no friend of mine."[135] Presley's movements during the performance were energetic and exaggerated. The reactions of young women in the studio audience were enthusiastic, as shown on the broadcast.[136][137]

Over 40,000,000 people saw the performance, and the next day, controversy exploded.[138] Cultural theorist David Shumway wrote, "Berle's network, NBC, received letters of protest, and the various self-appointed guardians of public morality attacked Elvis in the press."[139] TV critics began a merciless campaign against Elvis, making statements that he had a "caterwauling voice and nonsense lyrics" and was an "influence on juvenile delinquency" (despite the fact that when he started the movements, most of the audience laughed at it), and began using the sobriquet, "Elvis the Pelvis".[120]

Steve Allen Show[edit]

Elvis next appeared on national television singing "Hound Dog" on The Steve Allen Show on July 1. 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."[140][141] As Allen was notoriously contemptuous of rock 'n' roll music and songs such as "Hound Dog", he smirkingly presented Elvis "with a roll that looks exactly like a large roll of toilet paper with, says Allen, the 'signatures of eight thousand fans,'"[142] and the singer had to wear a tuxedo while singing an abbreviated version of Hound Dog to an actual top hat-wearing Basset Hound.[143] Although by most accounts Presley was a good sport about it, according to Scotty Moore, the next morning they were all angry about their treatment the previous night.[144]

Recording[edit]

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, 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 himself, which is verified by the band members. Presley insisted on getting the song exactly the way he wanted it, recording 31 takes of the song.[145] Presley chose the 28th take to be released.[17]

Release and reception[edit]

"Hound Dog" (G2WW-5935) was initially released as the B-side to the single "Don't Be Cruel" (G2WW-5936) on July 13, 1956.[146] Soon after the single was re-released with "Hound Dog" first and in larger print than "Don't Be Cruel" on the record sleeve.[147] Both sides of the record topped Billboard's Best Sellers in Stores and Most Played in Jukeboxes charts alongside "Don't Be Cruel", while "Hound Dog" on its own merit topped the country & western and rhythm & blues charts and peaked at number two on Billboard's main pop chart, the Top 100. Later reissues of the single by RCA in the 1960s designated the pair as double-A-sided. By August 18, 1956, Peacock re-released Big Mama Thornton's original recording, but backed with "Rock-a-Bye Baby".[148]

On September 9, with the song topping several U.S. 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.[149][150] Again, Presley drew more than 60 million viewers.

While Presley was performing "Hound Dog" on television and his record was scaling the charts, Stoller, who had been in Europe, was returning on the ill-fated final voyage of the Andrea Doria. On July 26, 1956, Leiber met the just-rescued Stoller on the docks and told him, "We got a smash hit on Hound Dog," Stoller said, "Big Mama's record?" And Leiber replied: '"No. Some white guy named Elvis Presley." Stoller added: "And I heard the record and I was disappointed. It just sounded terribly nervous, too fast, too white. But you know, after it sold seven or eight million records it started to sound better."[16]:90[151] Leiber complained about Presley adding the line, "You ain't caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine", calling it "inane…It doesn't mean anything to me."[16]:94[17] Forty years later, Leiber told music journalist Rikky Rooksby that Presley had stamped the hit with his own identity: "(A) white singer from Memphis who’s a hell of a singer—he does have some black attitudes—takes the song over…But here’s the thing: we didn’t make it. His version is like a combination of country and skiffle. It’s not black. He sounds like Hank Snow. In most cases where we are attributed with rock and roll, it’s misleading, because what we did is usually the original record—which is R&B—and some other producer (and a lot of them are great) covered our original record."[152]

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 eleven weeks at #1—a record not eclipsed until Boyz II Men's "End of the Road" held at #1 for 13 weeks in 1992. It stayed in the #1 spot until it was replaced by "Love Me Tender", also recorded by Elvis. "Hound Dog" would go on to sell 10 million copies worldwide, including 5 million in the United States alone.[153][154] In 1958, the "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" single became just the third record to sell more than three million copies, following Bing Crosby's "White Christmas" and Gene Autry's "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer".[17] Despite its commercial success, "Elvis used to say that 'Hound Dog' was the silliest song he'd ever sung and thought it might sell ten or twelve records right around his folks' neighborhood."[155]

Awards and accolades[edit]

In 1988, Presley's original 1956 RCA recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 1997, Bob Dylan indicated that Presley's record influenced his decision to get into music: "What got me into the whole thing in the beginning wasn't songwriting. When 'Hound Dog' came across the radio, there was nothing in my mind that said, 'Wow, what a great song, I wonder who wrote that?' … It was just…it was just there."[156] In December 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it No. 19 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, the highest ranked of Presley's eleven entries. In March 2005, Q magazine placed Presley's version at No. 55 of Q Magazine's 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks.[157]

Charts and certifications[edit]

Chart succession[edit]

Preceded by
"My Prayer" by The Platters
US Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
August 18, 1956 – September 16, 1956
(5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley
US Cash Box number-one single
August 18, 1956 – September 8, 1956
(4 weeks)
US Most Played in Jukeboxes number-one single
September 1, 1956 – November 10, 1956
(11 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Green Door" by Jim Lowe
Preceded by
"Honky Tonk" (Part 1 & 2) by Bill Doggett
US Top Selling Rhythm and Blues Singles number-one single
September 15, 1956 – October 20, 1956
(6 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Honky Tonk" (Part 1 & 2) by Bill Doggett
Preceded by
"I Want You, I Need You, I Love You" by Elvis Presley
US Top Selling Country & Western Singles number one single
September 15, 1956– November 17, 1956
(10 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Singing the Blues" by Marty Robbins
Preceded by
"Don't Be Cruel" by Elvis Presley
US Best Sellers in Stores number-one single
September 29, 1956 – October 27, 1956
(5 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Love Me Tender" by Elvis Presley

Responses[edit]

Parodies[edit]

After the Presley version of "Hound Dog" became a commercial success, Homer and Jethro parodied it as "Houn' Dawg" (RCA Victor 47-6706; 20-6706),[171][172] including such lines as: "You look like an Airedale, with the air let out".[173] Several parodies emphasized the cross-cultural appeal of Presley's record. Lalo "Pancho Lopez" Guerrero, the father of Chicano music,[174] released a parody version in 1956 entitled "Pound Dog" (L&M LM1002) about a chihuahua.[175] In January 1957, Jewish American satirist Mickey Katz released a Yinglish novelty song version, "You're a Doity Dog" (Capitol F3607), singing with a Yiddish accent, and having a klezmer break between verses.[176] In this freilach-rock song, Katz sang "You ain't nothin' but a paskudnick".[177] By March 1957, veteran country singer Cliff Johnson responded to the popularity of Presley's "Hound Dog" by recording his self-penned "Go 'Way Hound Dog (Let Me Sing My Blues)" (Columbia 4-40865; Australia: Coronet Records KW-022),[178] described in Billboard as "rockabilly that professes satiation with rockabilly music."[179] In 1991, Elvis "translator" El Vez,[180] backed by The Memphis Mariachis, released "(You Ain’t Nothin’ But A) Chihuahua", a "Chicano Power parody"[181] that opens with: "You ain't nothin' but a Chihuahua/ Yapping all the time."[182][183][184][185]

Encouraged by the 1994 decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc. that "ruled that … musicians do not have to obtain permission from the original artists to perform and record parodies of those compositions",[186] other parodies of "Hound Dog" proliferated subsequently. These include "Found God", a self-acknowledged parody of Presley's version by popular Christian band ApologetiX,[187] which, using the original tune, opens with: "I ain't nothin' but I found God/It took quite a long time".[188]

Litigation[edit]

Over the years "Hound Dog" "has been the subject of an inordinate number of lawsuits".[62] The most protracted was Valjo Music Publishing Corporation v. Elvis Presley Music that was initiated in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York in October 1956, after the commercial success of Elvis Presley's version of the song, and concluded in December 1957.

Valjo Music Publishing Corporation v. Elvis Presley Music[edit]

Background[edit]

Leiber and Stoller were introduced to Otis in July of 1952 by Federal Records' Ralph Bass when Otis needed songs for artists he was recording for Federal,[189] including Little Esther, Little Willie Littlefield, and Bobby Nunn of The Robins. In exchange for Otis using their songs, Leiber and Stoller gave Otis a one-third interest in those songs and assigned the publishing to Otis' company, Valjo Music Publishing Company.[189] Similarly, on August 30, 1952, Leiber and Stoller signed a contract with Spin Music Inc.—another publishing company in which Otis held an interest—assigning it certain rights to "Hound Dog" and some other songs in exchange for royalties to be divided equally between Leiber, Stoller, and Otis.[190] When the song was copyrighted initially on September 9, 1952, words and music were credited to Don Deadric Robey and Willie Mae Thornton, with Lion Publishing Co. identified as the registered publisher.[191] However, on March 26, 1953, it was credited to Leiber, Stoller, and Otis; and Valjo Music—not Spin—was the registered publisher.[192]

According to the findings of the court in Valjo Music Publishing Corporation v. Elvis Presley Music: "Thereafter Otis, in apparent disregard of the contracts both with Spin Music Inc. and plaintiff, arranged to have 'Hound Dog' published by Lion Music Publishing Company of Houston, Texas, and released by its affiliate Peacock Records. Otis executed a writerpublisher contract on October 10, 1952 with Lion Music Publishing Company in which Leiber, Otis and Stoller were described as the writers of 'Hound Dog.'"[189] Thus, Otis received a co-writing credit with Leiber and Stoller on Thornton's Peacock Records release and on all of the 1953 cover versions. The court also noted: "Otis signed not only his name but also signed—or perhaps forged—the names of Stoller and Leiber to it. The president or proprietor of Lion Music Publishing Company noted the similarity of the handwriting of the signatures and made contact with Leiber and Stoller who advised him that Otis had no authority to sign their names to the agreement and that Otis was not a co-author of the song, although he was entitled to receive one-third of the royalties. Lion then arranged for a contract with Leiber and Stoller alone for the publishing rights."[189] In order for Leiber and Stoller to execute the contract with Lion—"which, because we were underage, had to be signed by our mothers"[16]:66—a court appointed Mary Stein (for Leiber) and Adelyn Stoller (for Stoller) as their legal guardians in late April 1953.[193] The contract assigned the publishing for "Hound Dog" to Lion. Otis' credit was omitted from all subsequent records.[16]:66 Following on the popularity of Elvis' live and televised performances of "Hound Dog", Elvis Presley Music made the acquisition of half the publishing for the song from Lion Music a precondition to issuing a recording, to which Robey assented.

Proceedings[edit]

In October 1956, the success of Presley's version prompted Valjo to sue Leiber and Stoller and Elvis Presley Music to have Otis restored as co-writer and recover damages for lost royalties.[194][195] In Valjo Music Publishing Corporation v. Elvis Presley Music, Otis as plaintiff alleged that he was the co-author of "Hound Dog" along with two defendants, Leiber and Stoller. Otis signed a release of any claims to the song in exchange for $750 on August 26, 1956.[189] In court, Otis claimed that he had done so because he had learned that the defendants were legally infants at the time of the original contracts in 1952, and would, therefore, disaffirm any contract that they had with him.[196] This made no sense to the United States Southern District of Court of New York: "Otis was a man who had many years experience in the music business. He must have realized that even though Leiber and Stoller were infants they could not disaffirm his co-authorship of a song, if in fact he had been a co-author."[197][198] Further, while Leiber and Stoller acknowledged that they had given Otis one-third of the mechanical rights for the original Thornton recording, they denied giving him one-third authorship credit.[199] On December 4, 1957, Valjo's claim was dismissed in the New York Federal Court,[200][201] on the basis that Otis was "unworthy of belief", that he admitted forging Leiber and Stoller's signatures on a declaration to third-party publisher Lion Music, that Leiber and Stoller were underage at the time, and that Otis had signed a release to any claims for $750.[190][202] As the evidence would not sustain Valjo's contention that Otis had collaborated in the writing of "Hound Dog",[203] the Court voided Leiber and Stoller's contract,[18] ordered Otis to pay the legal costs of the defendants,[204] and awarded 46.25% of the song to Leiber and Stoller, with Lion Music receiving 28.75% and Elvis Presley Music receiving the final 25%.[205]

Despite the Court's findings, Otis continued to claim that he wrote the third verse and rewrote some of the lyrics in the second verse[206][207]—including adding "You made me feel so bad. You make me weep and moan. You ain't looking for a woman. You're looking for a home"—and edited out what he described later as "derogatory crap";[205] but Leiber and Stoller maintained consistently and emphatically that Otis was "not a writer of the song" (emphasis theirs).[16]:66

In popular culture[edit]

  • The AGM-28 Hound Dog missile's name is inspired by Presley's version of the song.[208]
  • The song was one of six that Johnny Casino and the Gamblers (Sha Na Na) performed in the school dance scene in the 1978 musical film Grease.
  • The instrumental version by Les Welch & His Orchestra was used in Phillip Noyce's 1978 Australian film Newsfront and its soundrack album, Music and Songs from the Film Newsfront.[209]
  • The song was included in the soundtrack of the 1992 film Honeymoon in Vegas with Jeff Beck and Jed Leiber (son of "Hound Dog" songwriter Jerry Leiber) playing it as an instrumental.
  • The Big Mama Thornton original was included in the soundtrack of the 1992 courtroom drama A Few Good Men.
  • In the 1994 film Forrest Gump, Forrest remembers a time when a young guitar player stays at his home, with Forrest dancing to the man playing "Hound Dog"—the man being Elvis Presley. The film cuts to Elvis playing "Hound Dog" later in life, suggesting that Gump's peculiar dancing inspired Elvis's famous dance.[17]
  • The song was included in the 1995 musical revue Smokey Joe's Cafe, and in the 2002 TV special Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller.
  • The song was included in the 1996 stage musical, Hound Dog: A Hip hOpera”, a musical sendup that was written, and produced by Jeff Rake, that ran for three months at Hollywood’s Hudson Theatre, receiving five LA Weekly Theatre Award nominations, including Musical of the Year.[210][211]
  • In the 2002 animated film Lilo & Stitch, the song is one of the five Presley songs included.
  • Big Mama Thornton's version is included in Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey,[212] the soundtrack of Martin Scorsese's PBS 2003 film series, The Blues.[213]
  • The 2007 coming of age film Hounddog takes its name from the song. Presley's version is the favorite song of the film's lead character,[214] a 12-year old Presley-obsessed girl (played by Dakota Fanning), who is encouraged to sing after she was raped.[215] Grammy-winning American singer-songwriter Jill Scott made her film debut in "Hounddog" portraying Big Mama Thornton, including a performance of the song.[216][217]
  • In 2008, Presley's version was included in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.
  • Big Mama Thornton's original version is featured in Nowhere Boy, the 2009 biopic about John Lennon's early years.

Discography[edit]

Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton[edit]

Thornton recorded several versions of "Hound Dog" throughout her career:

  • "Hound Dog" / "Night Mare" (US: February 1953; Peacock 1612) with Kansas City Bill (aka Johnny Otis) and Orchestra[218] (mislabeled on some European issues as with Joe Scott and His Orchestra)
  • on LP, In Europe (recorded October 20, 1965 at Wessex Studios, London) (US: 1969; Arhoolie F 1028)[219]
  • on LP, Stronger Than Dirt (US: 1969; Mercury ‎SR 61225)[220]
  • on LP, She's Back (US; 1970: Backbeat Records BLP-68)[221]
  • on LP, Jail (US: 1975; Vanguard VSD 79351)[222]

Freddie Bell and the Bellboys[edit]

Freddie Bell and the Bellboys recorded two versions:

  • "Hound Dog" (US: 1955; Teen 101) – recorded before Elvis heard it
  • on LP Rock & Roll…All Flavors (US: 1957; Mercury MG 20289) – recorded after Elvis began performing it on television, but before he recorded it; issued well after Elvis' version was released

Elvis Presley[edit]

  • "Hound Dog"/"Don't Be Cruel" (Recorded: July 2, 1956; Released: July 13, 1956: RCA Victor 47-6604)

Presley never revisited "Hound Dog" in the studio, but with the proliferation of posthumous concert recordings, dozens of live versions have been issued. The earliest of these is a May 16, 1956 recording from the Robinson Memorial Auditorium in Little Rock, AR that was first officially issued in the 2002 boxed set, Today, Tomorrow, and Forever, although it had appeared as early as 1989 on the bootleg, Elvis Rocks Little Rock (Bilko 1598). The show was recorded by local DJ Ray Green, who thought the recording so bad that he didn't submit it to his station, KXLR; thus, it never aired, sitting instead in a box for over thirty years before Green rediscovered it.[223] A mere ten days after the Vegas gig where he picked up the song from Freddie Bell, it was Presley's second time closing with "Hound Dog", and his only known recorded performance of the song—other than his televised appearances on the Milton Berle and Steve Allen shows—prior to recording the single.

Notable cover versions[edit]

1953-1955[edit]

  • Little Esther (Recorded: March 11, 1953; Released: April 1953: Federal 12126)
  • Charlie Gore & Louis Innis "(You Ain't Nothin but a Female) Hound Dog" (March 22, 1953: King 3587)
  • Jack Turner and His Granger County Gang (April, 4, 1953: RCA Victor 47-5267)[224]
  • Billy Starr (April 4, 1953: Imperial 45-8186)
  • Eddie Hazlewood (April 11, 1953: Intro Records 45-6069)
  • Betsy Gay (April 11, 1953: Intro Records 45-6070) On Various Artists Boppin' Hillbilly, Vol. 4 (Netherlands: 1988; White Label WLP2804)
  • Tommy Duncan and the Miller Bros. (April 18, 1953: Intro Records 45-6071)
  • Cleve Jackson [Jackson Cleveland Toombs] and His Hound Dogs (1953: Herald H-1015) on Various Artists, Chicago Rock (Netherlands: 1974; Redita [1st series] 108) Various Artists Boppin' Hillbilly, Vol. 5 (Netherlands: 1989; White Label WLP2805)
  • The Cozy Cole All Stars (William Randolph Cole) "Hound Dog Special" (Recorded: February 24, 1954: MGM 11794) "A spend off [sic] of Willie Mae Thornton's" version.[225] (instrumental)

1956-1959[edit]

  • Brenda Lee performed the Presley version in 1956 on Ozark Jubilee at age 11[226] to promote Houn' Dawg dog food.[227]
  • Mickey Katz and His Orchestra "You're A Doity Dog (Hound Dog)" (January 1957; Capitol F3607) (Germany: 1957; Capitol F 80 411)
  • Les Welch & His Orchestra (Australia: 1957; Prestige Records PS 1003)[228] (instrumental) Licensed from Peacock Records, it is credited to Robey-Thornton-Leiber-Stoller.[229]
  • The Big Ben Accordion Band Rock `N` Roll (No. 2) (EP) (NZ: 1957; Columbia 45-DNZ.10087)
  • Jerry Lee Lewis Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On (recorded at Sun Studios February 14, 1958) Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On: Where Rock Began (1977: Gusto GT-103) (1992: Dragon Street 7822)
  • Finn and his Rock Ramblers Finn and His Rock Ramblers (Sweden: March 31, 1958: Sonora SEP 138)
  • The Henri Bouce All Stars with Peter McLean & Beverley Dick Let’s Have a Party (Australia: 1958 Planet PP-016)[230] (instrumental)
  • The Stone-Agers (Australia: ca. 1958; Prestophone Olympic)[231] (Unreleased)
  • J. Lawrence Cook Piano-Roll Rock 'N' Roll (1959: Mercury Records SR 60083/MG 20407) (instrumental)
  • The Collins Kids Rockin' On T.V. (Recorded: 1959. UK: 1993; Krazy Kat KKCD14) The Collins Kids At Town Hall Party 1959-1960 (Released: 1998: Country Routes 9002)
  • Nico Carstens with Cherry Wainer Flying High (South Africa: 1959; Columbia 33JS 11007) (instrumental) "The First Rock 'n Roll Album Recorded By SA Musicians".[232]

1960-1969[edit]

1970-1979[edit]

  • Albert King King Does The King's Thing (1970: Stax Records STS-2015)
  • Ross McManus Ross McManus Sings Elvis Presley's Golden Hits (1970: Hallmark CHM 679)
  • Rock-Ragge [Ragnar Fredrik Nygren] on Various Artists Rockgala på Dambergs - Fridens, kilowatt & rivaler (Sweden: May 25, 1971; Polydor 2379 018)
  • James Burton Guitar Sounds of James Burton (1971: A&M SP 4293) (instrumental)
  • Van Morrison Live at Pacific High Studios (1971) Bootleg
  • Conway Twitty Conway Twitty Sings the Blues (1972: MGM Records SE-4837)
  • White Cloud (ca. 1972: Good Medicine Records 17000)
  • Miguel Ríos Miguel Ríos en directo: Conciertos de Rock y amor.1972 (Spain: 1972; Hispavox HHS 11-226) Credited to Otis-Leiber-Stoller[234]
  • John Lennon Performed by Lennon and the Plastic Ono Elephant's Memory Band on August 30, 1972 at Madison Square Garden, New York City, from one of his last charity concerts.[235] Released on Live in New York (US: January 24, 1986: UK: February 24, 1986: Parlophone PCS 7301)
  • Per 'Elvis' Granberg & The New Jordal Swingers Real Rock 'N' Roll (1973: Philips 6317 013)
  • Jari Lampinen "Rakkikoira (Hound Dog)" (Leiber, Stoller, Lampinen) (Finland: April 1974; Love LRS 2042) (Finnish version)[236]
  • Demetrio Stratos, Mauro Pagani, Paolo TofaniRock And Roll Exibition (Italy: 1979; Cramps Records 5205 901)
  • Yankel Prestein on Various Artists The International Elvis Impersonators Convention (1979: Rhino Records RNEP 505)
  • Walter Steding (1979: Red Star RSS-2)

1980-1989[edit]

  • Jerry Deewood From Ballad to Rock & Roll (1980: EMI 1A 058 63714)
  • Danny Mirror (Eddy Ouwens) & The Jordanaires 50 x The King - Elvis Presley's Greatest Songs (August 1981: ANR Records ANR 85205)
  • Geraint Watkins (September 1981: BEEB Records BEEB 028)
  • Tales of Terror Tales of Terror (1984: CD Presents CD 015)
  • Carl Perkins (UK: 1985; Magnum Force MFLP-2.039)
  • Albert King The Best of Albert King, Vol 1 (1986: Stax);[237]
  • Jimi Hendrix Experience Radio One (1988: Rykodisc RCD 20078)
  • The Royal Artillery Alanbrooke Band Change in Time (as part of medley) (1988)
  • The Residents The King and I (1989: Enigma 7 73547 2)
  • Bon Jovi, Cinderella, Бригада С, Klaus Meine on Various Artists Stairway to Heaven/Highway to Hell (1989: Mercury Records 843 093 2) Live performance from the Moscow Music Peace Festival with proceeds to benefit the Make a Difference Foundation.
  • Eric Clapton (Germany: 1989; Reprise 5439-19719-7) Journeyman (November 1989: Duck Records 7599-2 6074-1 ) (1990: Warner Bros. 19848)

1990-1999[edit]

2000 to current[edit]

Answers and parodies[edit]

  • Charlie Gore & Louis Innis "(You Ain't Nothin but a Female) Hound Dog" (March 22, 1953: King 3587)
  • Roy Brown and His Mighty, Mighty Men "Mr. Hound Dog's in Town" (March 1953: King Records 45-4627)
  • John Brim "Rattlesnake" (1953: Checker 769)
  • Chuck Higgins and His Mellotones (vocal by "Daddy Cleanhead") "Real Gone Hound Dog" (written by C. Higgins & V. Haven) (1953: Combo 25)[81]
  • Smiley Lewis "Play Girl" (D. Bartholomew) (1953: Imperial 45-5234)[238]
  • Rufus "Hound Dog" Thomas, Jr. "Bear Cat (The Answer To Hound Dog)" (March 1953: Sun Records 181)
  • Unknown (attributed to Rosco Gordon) "(You Ain't Nuttin' But a) Juicehead" (Probably March 1953: unreleased demo recorded at Sun Records)[239] On Various Artists "706 Blues": A Collection of Rare Memphis Blues (Netherlands, 1974: Redita LP-111) On Various Artists (Netherlands 1988: Keep On Rolling (Redita 131) Various Artists Sun Records: The Blues Years 1950-1958 (1996: Charly CDSUNBOX 7)
  • Juanita Moore and the Eugene Jackson Trio "Call Me a Hound Dog" (Robert Geddins) on Various Artists Toast of the Coast: 1950s R&B from Dolphin's of Hollywood, Vol. 2 (Recorded ca. 1953; Released: UK: March 10, 2009: Ace)
  • Frank "Dual Trumpeter" Motley & His Crew (with vocal by Curley Bridges) "New Hound Dog" (1954: Big Town 116)
  • Big "Tiny" Kennedy [Jesse Kennedy, Jr.] and His Orchestra "Country Boy" (Tiny Kennedy) (October 1955: Groove 4G-0106) Re-released 2011: Juke Box Jam JBJ 1025)
  • Homer and Jethro "Houn' Dawg" (November 10, 1956: RCA Victor 20-6706; 47-6706)
  • Lalo "Pancho Lopez" Guerrero "Pound Dog" (1956: L&M LM1002)
  • Cliff Johnson "Go 'Way Hound Dog (Let Me Sing My Blues)" (1956: Columbia 4-40865; Australia: 1957; Coronet Records KW-022)
  • Johnny Madera "Too Many Hound Dogs" (Bob Crewe, Frank Slay) (November 1960: Swan Records 4063)

Other artists[edit]

In July 2013 the official Leiber & Stoller website lists 266 cover versions of "Hound Dog", but acknowledged that it was incomplete.[240]

Original Cast recordings[edit]

"Hound Dog" has appeared in the following musicals and was performed by the Original Cast:[240]

Foreign language versions[edit]

Among those artists who have recorded non-English versions of "Hound Dog" are:

  • Ralf Bendix (in German, as “Heut Geh’ Ich Nicht Nach Hause”) (1957),
  • Lucky Blondo (in French, as “Un Vieux Chien de Chase”) on his album To Elvis from Nashville (1977: Philips)
  • Dyno Y Los Solitarios (in Spanish, as “Sabueso”)
  • Aurelio Morata (in Spanish, as “Perra Boba”) (1999)
  • Los Rogers (in Spanish, as “El Twist Del Perro”) (1961)
  • Rock and Rollers (in German, as “Das Ist Rock And Roll”) (lyrics: Fini Busch) (1957)
  • Angela Ro Ro (in Portuguese, as “Hot-Dog”) (1984)
  • Züri West (in Bernese German as “Souhung”) on their album Elvis (June 15, 1990: Black Cat at Sound Service).[240]

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  208. ^ Ellis Katz (February 9, 2011). "A Brief Account of the Beginning of the Hounddog (GAM 77) Program". AMMS Alumni. Retrieved February 6, 2012. "I recall Joe Berrer (Joe was president of the Missile Division at the time; not sure of the spelling of his last name) returning from Inglewood where he had met with Dutch Kindleberger and Lee Atwood regarding the contract award and telling us that it had been decided to name the GAM-77 as "Hounddog". At the time Elvis was "King" and his musical fame carried over to our bird." 
  209. ^ "Music and Songs from the Film Newsfront"
  210. ^ "Cashmere Mafia"
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  215. ^ "Dakota Fanning - Hounddog"
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  227. ^ "Brenda Lee - Hound Dog"
  228. ^ "Prestige"
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  238. ^ "45 Discography for Imperial Records - 5000 series
  239. ^ "The discredited LP Keep On Rocking Redita 131"]
  240. ^ a b c "Leiber & Stoller Discography"

Further reading[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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