Understanding the Evolution of Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog”
The interpretation of classic rock songs can often lead to misconceptions. A prime example is Elvis Presley’s iconic hit, “Hound Dog.” Originally written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Big Mama Thornton, the song underwent significant transformations before becoming the iconic version we know today. In this article, we delve into the fascinating origins and cultural impact of this legendary rock ‘n’ roll anthem.
The Original Lyrics: A Surprising Twist
Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller initially penned “Hound Dog” for Big Mama Thornton, with the song’s original lyrics centered around a freeloading gigolo. However, when Elvis Presley came across Big Mama Thornton’s recording, he realized that the lyrics needed modification for him to perform the song.
Elvis was influenced by a cover version of “Hound Dog” by Freddie Bell and the Bell Boys, a Las Vegas lounge band. The altered lyrics in their rendition changed the song’s perception, making it sound like it was about a dog rather than a gigolo. Elvis and his music publishers saw the potential in this new interpretation, leading to the birth of his legendary rendition of “Hound Dog.”
Elvis Presley’s Musical Journey: “Love Me”
After the success of “Hound Dog,” Elvis Presley’s music publishers, the Aberbach brothers, approached Leiber and Stoller for more songs. This collaboration resulted in the creation of another classic tune – “Love Me.” Elvis recorded “Love Me” for his second album, aptly titled “Elvis.”
The Infamous Television Appearance
One of the most significant moments in the history of “Hound Dog” is Elvis Presley’s performance on “The Steve Allen Show.” This iconic rendition on national television showcased Elvis’ signature dance moves, which were deemed scandalous and obscene by many. In response to the controversy, Elvis was asked to stand still during the performance, accompanied by a bloodhound. This arrangement took the focus away from Elvis’ provocative dance moves and transformed the song into a more innocent and lighthearted performance. The success of this show led to a change of heart from Ed Sullivan, who initially refused to invite Elvis to his own show.
It is worth noting that initially, Jerry Leiber, the co-writer of “Hound Dog,” wasn’t entirely fond of Elvis’ rendition. Feeling that it lacked energy and confidence, he eventually changed his opinion as the song soared to the top of the charts, selling over 7 million copies.
A Timeless Classic
While the original meaning of “Hound Dog” may have been somewhat lost in translation, the song remains an enduring symbol of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Its influence and cultural impact cannot be understated, shaping the course of Elvis Presley’s legendary career and leaving an indelible mark on music history.
Despite its evolution and various interpretations, “Hound Dog” continues to captivate audiences with its infectious energy and unforgettable melodies. Its place in the pantheon of rock ‘n’ roll classics is well-deserved, reminding us of the transformative power of music and the enduring legacy of Elvis Presley.