"Hound Dog" is a twelve-bar blues song written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Recorded originally by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton on August 13, 1952, in Los Angeles and released by Peacock Records in late February 1953, "Hound Dog" was Thornton's only hit record, selling over 500,000 copies, spending 14 weeks in the R&B charts, including seven weeks at #1. Thornton's recording of "Hound Dog" is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll", and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in February 2013.
"Hound Dog" has been recorded more than 250 times. The best-known version of "Hound Dog" is the July 1956 recording by Elvis Presley, which is ranked No. 19 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time; it is also one of the best-selling singles of all time. Presley's version, which sold about 10 million copies globally, was his best-selling song and "an emblem of the rock 'n' roll revolution". It was simultaneously No. 1 on the US pop, country, and R&B charts in 1956, and it topped the pop chart for 11 weeks — a record that stood for 36 years. Presley's 1956 RCA recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1988, and it is listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll".
"Hound Dog" has been at the center of controversies and several 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 featured in numerous films, including Grease, Forrest Gump, Lilo & Stitch, A Few Good Men, Hounddog, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Nowhere Boy.
On August 12, 1952, R&B bandleader Johnny Otis asked 19-year-old songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller to his home to meet blues singer Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton. Thornton had been signed by "Diamond" Don Robey's Houston-based Peacock Records the year before, and after two failed singles, Robey had enlisted Otis to reverse her fortunes. After hearing Thornton rehearse several songs, Leiber and Stoller "forged a tune to suit her personality—brusque and badass". In an interview in Rolling Stone in April 1990, Stoller said: "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." 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" conveying words which could not be sung. "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." 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." Using a "black slang expression referring to a man who sought a woman to take care of him", the song's opening line, "You ain't nothin' but a hound dog", was a euphemism, said Leiber The song, a Southern blues lament, is "the tale of a woman throwing a gigolo out of her house and her life":
The song was written for a woman to sing in which she berates "her selfish, exploitative man", and in it she "expresses a woman's rejection of a man — the metaphorical dog in the title". 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." R&B expert George A. Moonoogian concurs, calling it "a biting and scathing satire in the double-entendre genre" of 1950s rhythm and blues.
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. 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." 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."
Leiber and Stoller along with Johnny Otis, also wrote a different version to the "Hound Dog" song structure on behalf of Big Mama Thornton, recorded with an alternative lyric entitled "Tom Cat". File Hashes