Song of the Day #4,551: ‘Hound Dog’ – Elvis Presley

‘Hound Dog,’ Elvis Presley’s top-selling song, started out as a hit for the blues singer ‘Big Mama’ Thornton. Thornton’s 1953 version was a hit in its own right, selling two million copies and spending nearly two months atop Billboard’s R&B chart.

Thornton’s version was far more sexually suggestive, depicting a Black woman giving a no-good man the kiss-off. “You ain’t nothing but a hound dog, been snoopin’ ’round my door,” she sings, “You can wag your tail but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.”

Before Presley got involved, a band called Freddie Bell and the Bellboys recorded a tongue-in-cheek version of the song. This bunch of white guys made a career out of covering Black R&B hits, with ‘Hound Dog’ their most successful appropriation.

It was that version that Presley heard and decided to cover, including the sanitized lyrics and rockier rhythms. Presley’s version, released in 1956 with ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ as the B-side, became one of the best-selling singles of all time.

Thornton, meanwhile, earned a grand total of $500 for her signature song.

[Chorus]
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine

[Verse]
When they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah, they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine

[Chorus]
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine

[Bridge]
Ahh, ahh
Ahh, ahh

[Verse]
When they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah, they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine

[Bridge]
Ahh, ahh
Ahh, ahh

[Verse]
When they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
You know, they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie
Yeah, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
And you ain’t no friend of mine

[Chorus]
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
You ain’t nothing but a hound dog
Crying all the time
Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit
You ain’t no friend of mine

3 thoughts on “Song of the Day #4,551: ‘Hound Dog’ – Elvis Presley

  1. Dana Gallup says:

    Great history on a classic rock song.

  2. Peg says:

    So interesting. Last night I watched Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom and it dealt with Black artist’s music and ownership. Art imitates life. BTW it’s an excellent watch with amazing performances by Viola Davis and Chadwick Boseman in his final performance 😢

  3. Peg says:

    Just want to add an interesting article in the Los Angeles Times about this film and why the ending was changed mentions Thorton on this very subject and song. Also I do love Elvis ❤️

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