Digital Classroom: Elvis Presley, "Hound Dog"
"Hound Dog" (1956)
“Hound Dog” is one of the most well-known and controversial songs in the history of rock and roll. Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, two young Jewish songwriters in Los Angeles, wrote the song. Leiber and Stoller loved R&B. They wrote it for Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, a singer working with Johnny Otis’s band. Thornton’s version hit #1 on the R&B charts in 1953. Elvis Presley (inducted 1986) heard it in an arrangement by Freddie Bell and The Bellboys in Las Vegas in 1956. It was one of his earliest hits at RCA, spending eleven weeks at #1. His performance of the song on The Milton Berle Show featured bumps and grinds and made no excuses for its overt sexuality, which helped create the idea that rock and roll generally (and Elvis specifically) was morally dangerous. The song is also seen as the most illustrative example of the white appropriation of African-American music.