Big Mama Thornton

Hound Dog

Composed by Jerry Leiber / Mike Stoller

Song Review by

Young Caucasian songwriters Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller wrote their seminal collaboration "Hound Dog" for Johnny Otis protégée Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton as a tough down-home blues replete with ribald, double-entendre-laden lyrics that the 300-pound belter bit into with gusto. The Montgomery, AL-born Thornton was born to sing "Hound Dog"; her gruff, no-nonsense bark was urged forward by Pete Lewis' snapping lead guitar at the August 13, 1952, Los Angeles session for Don Robey's Houston-based Peacock Records. Red-hot bandleader Otis (among his other discoveries were singers Little Esther and Mel Walker) was producing the date and playing vibes, but he was forced to switch instruments when drummer Leard "K.C." Bell couldn't locate the proper backwoods groove. With Otis behind the traps and the horns laying out, everything came together -- even the band's barking to seal the number in genuine canine fashion. "Hound Dog" bounded onto the charts in the spring of 1953 and held down the top slot on Billboard's R&B lists for seven straight weeks (it would prove Thornton's only national hit). But with all the acclaim came a torrent of legal woes. Peacock had cited Otis as one of the songwriters, leading to a battle that eventually excised his name from the credits. Down in Memphis, popular WDIA DJ Rufus Thomas Jr. waxed an answer disc, "Bear Cat," for Sun Records that chased "Hound Dog"'s tail up the R&B charts and provoked a lawsuit from Robey that Sun boss Sam Phillips lost. In Chicago, blues guitarist John Brim cut another sequel, "Rattlesnake," for Checker with the great Little Walter on harp that was pulled from release to avoid similar litigation. Even hipper country cats were listening: Billy Starr's cover for Imperial was a juke joint-honed blend of country and pre-rockabilly raunch. Amazingly, when Elvis Presley cut his revered rendition of "Hound Dog" in 1956, he apparently wasn't even aware of Thornton's sassy original. Elvis had picked up on the tune during his first disappointing jaunt to Las Vegas, where he'd heard Freddie Bell & the Bellboys tear it up in one of the local lounges. Bell was responsible for the sanitized lyrics Elvis screamed; the Philadelphia native had cut his own 1955 version for the tiny Teen logo to negligible response. In any event, once Presley blasted into it, few folks remembered any of the prior platters. His rocked-up reading for RCA Victor, sporting two startling Scotty Moore guitar solos that sounded at times as though the neck of his axe consisted of springy rubber, skyrocketed to the top of the pop charts in the late summer of 1956, forever defining the song for all time. Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, Conway Twitty, even blues guitar wizard Albert King all keyed their versions in on Presley's take-no-prisoners conception. Funny thing was, the lyrics made very little sense when sung by a man.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
In Europe 1965 Arhoolie 2:58
Ball n' Chain 1968 Arhoolie 3:01
Jail 1975 Vanguard 2:47
Rock and Roll: The Early Days 1985
Various Artists
RCA
No Image 1986
Various Artists
MCA
The Rock 'N' Roll Era: Roots of Rock - 1945-1956 1990
Various Artists
2:51
No Image 1991 MCA
Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings 1992 MCA 2:52
The Blues: A Smithsonian Collection of Classic Blues Singers 1993
Various Artists
Smithsonian Records 2:50
The R&B Box: 30 Years of Rhythm & Blues 1994
Various Artists
Rhino / Rhino/Warner Bros.
American Folk Blues Festival: 1962-1965 1995
Various Artists
Evidence 3:17
Blues Masters, Vols. 1-5 1995
Various Artists
Rhino
Vanguard Blues Sampler 1996
Various Artists
Vanguard 2:54
Blues Classics [MCA] 1996
Various Artists
Geffen / Interscope 2:50
Evidence Blues Sampler: Five 1996
Various Artists
Evidence 3:19
MVP Vintage Blues, Vol. 2 1997
Various Artists
MVP Records 2:50
American Folk Blues Festival '62-'65: Highlights 1997
Various Artists
Evidence 3:17
Vanguard Collector's Edition 1997
Various Artists
Vanguard 2:50
The King's Record Collection, Vol. 1 1998
Various Artists
Hip-O
Rolling Stone Women in Rock 1998
Various Artists
Razor & Tie 2:51
Spirit of Blues 1998
Various Artists
Wagram 2:49
Men Are Like Street Cars: Women Blues Singers 1928-1969 1999
Various Artists
Geffen 2:52
Jump, Jive & Swing [Rhino] 1999
Various Artists
Rhino 2:51
Living the Blues: Blues Greats [1999] 1999
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
The Complete Vanguard Recordings 2000 Vanguard 3:00
Back to Black: 1900-1999 2001
Various Artists
Universal International 2:51
Pure Blues 2001
Various Artists
UTV 2:50
Basic Blues, Vol. 4 2001
Various Artists
Platinum Disc 2:48
No Image 2001
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
From Hell To Gone and Back (Texas Blues) 2002
Various Artists
Vanguard 2:54
Mighty Crazy 2002 Catfish 6:07
Songs That Made Elvis Famous 2002
Various Artists
Disky 2:50
Roots of Rock and Roll 1952, Vol. 8 2003
Various Artists
Frémeaux & Associés 2:52
No Image 2003
Various Artists
Time/Life Music 2:51
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey 2003
Original Soundtrack
Hip-O / Universal 2:49
Blues Story [Shout! Factory] 2003
Various Artists
Shout! Factory
Martin Scorsese Presents the Blues 2003
Various Artists
Sony Music Distribution
Blues Collection [Madacy] 2004
Various Artists
Madacy Distribution / Madacy 2:50
The Roots of Rock 'n' Roll: 1946-1954 2004
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:49
Elvis Inspiration 2004
Various Artists
Boulevard Vintage 2:54
Songs for Elvis 2004
Various Artists
Vivid Sound
The R&B Years 1953 2004
Various Artists
Secret Records 2:50
Lost Blues Tapes/More American Folk Blues Festival 2004
Various Artists
Highnote Records, Inc. / High Note 3:32
Blues: The Essential Album 2004
Various Artists
Essential Records 2:50
Hound Dog: Essential Collection 2004 Spectrum Music / Universal International 2:51
Blowing the Fuse: 29 R&B Classics That Rocked the Jukebox in 1953 2005
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:50
That's All Right: The Dawn of the Rock & Roll Era 2005
Various Artists
X5 Music Group 2:51
The Best of Jukebox 2005
Various Artists
Disky / Disky Communications
Rock 'N' Roll Roots: The Blues Influence 2005
Various Artists
Smith & Co. Sound & Vision
100 Rhythm & Blues Classics 2005
Various Artists
Castle Pulse 2:50
R&B Jukebox Hits 1953, Vol. 1 2005
Various Artists
Acrobat 2:49
We're Gonna Rock: We're Gonna Roll 2005
Various Artists
Proper Box 2:51
We're Gonna Rock We're Gonna Roll: Blues & Rhythm 2005
Various Artists
Proper Sales & Dist. 2:51
Blues: Gold 2006
Various Artists
Hip-O 2:49
Express Yourself: Soul In The 20th Century 2006
Various Artists
Um3 / Universal 2:49
50 Rock and Roll Originals 2006
Various Artists
Delta 2:50
The Blues Masters 2006
Various Artists
Universal/Verve 2:49
Oldies But Goldies [Documents] 2006
Various Artists
Document 2:50
No Image 2006
Various Artists
Cafe Con / Horizon
The Blues Had a Baby...They Called It Rock 'N' Roll 2006
Various Artists
Primo Records 2:51
Rhythm & Blues: The Golden Era 2006
Various Artists
Golden Stars 2:50
Tom Waits' Jukebox 2006
Various Artists
United States of Distribution / Chrome Dreams 2:50
Jimi Hendrix's Jukebox 2007
Various Artists
Chrome Dreams / United States 2:50
Vanguard Visionaries 2007 Vanguard 3:00
No Image 2007
Various Artists
Solid Gold Music / Union Square Music 2:50
Elvis Pays Tribute to the Blues 2007
Various Artists
New Note / Saga / Saga Blues / Saga Records 2:47
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Bell 2:54
A Brief History of the Blues 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:51
Music of My Life: Golden Decade, Vol. 12 (1953-1954) 2008
Various Artists
Golden Decade / Membran 2:50
No Image 2008
Various Artists
Universal Distribution 2:49
Hound Dog: Leiber and Stoller Collection 2009
Various Artists
Micro Werks 2:49
Routes of Rockabilly 2009
Various Artists
Fantastic Voyage 2:53
The Roots of Frank Zappa 2009
Various Artists
Snapper / Snapper Music 2:47
Shake, Rattle And Roll: R&B's Greatest Hits 1953-1958 2009
Various Artists
Jasmine Records 2:51
Rumba Blues, Vol. 1: How Latin Music Changed R&B 1940-1953 2010
Various Artists
Rhythm & Blues
Hear Me Howling! Blues, Ballads & Beyond 2011
Various Artists
Arhoolie 4:55
Lemon Popsicles and Strawberry Milkshakes: It's a Girls World 2011
Various Artists
Go Entertain
Simply America 2011
Various Artists
Simply
The First Rock and Roll Record 2011
Various Artists
Famous Flames 2:48
Blue Moon [Rhino] 2011
Various Artists
Rhino 2:45
Fever: A Rhythm & Blues Trilogy 2011
Various Artists
Le son du Maquis
Plug It In! Turn It Up! Electric Blues - The Definitive Collection, Pt. 1: Beginnings 1939-1954 2012
Various Artists
Bear Family Records 2:50
Simply Blues [2012] 2012
Various Artists
Simply / Union Square 2:50
Topcat Records 20th Anniversary Extravaganza 2012
Various Artists
Topcat Records 3:06
100 Blues Classics & Greatest Blues Hits 2013
Various Artists
4:Squared 2:50
Dues Paid: The Bluestime Story 2013
Various Artists
Ace 3:20
The R&B No. 1s of the '50s 2013
Various Artists
Acrobat / Acrobat Music 2:51
Sweethearts and Stolen Kisses: From the Movies 2014
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:49
Rock-A-Bye Baby 2014 Hoo Doo Records 2:53
The Essential Recordings 2017 Primo 2:54
101 Essential Blues Tracks
Various Artists
DM Digital 2:48
No Image
Various Artists
DLG Digital 2:50
Best of the Blues, Vol. 1 [Excalibur]
Various Artists
Excalibur 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
TMC Entertainment 2:52
Blues Gold [Universal]
Various Artists
Universal 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Time/Life Music
No Image
Various Artists
Delta 2:50
Call Me Big Mama Cherished Records 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Delta 2:48
Essential West Coast Blues
Various Artists
Not Now Music
Hits im Doppelpack, Vol. 2
Various Artists
Documents
Hot Hundred: Hits of the 50s
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:49
No Image
Various Artists
BD Jazz 2:51
Many Faces of Chuck Berry
Various Artists
Music Brokers 2:50
Original Versions of the Beatles Club
Various Artists
Cherry Red / Righteous
No Image
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Sound and Vision 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Sound and Vision 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Sound and Vision 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Blanksheets Records 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Bluebird 2:59
No Image
Various Artists
Must Have Records 2:50
Rock 'n' Roll Ladies
Various Artists
ZYX 2:51
No Image
Various Artists
Must Have Records 2:50
Rock'n Roll Fever [Music & Melody]
Various Artists
Music & Melody 2:51
No Image
Various Artists
DLG Digital 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Simply
Solid Gold Rock 'n' Roll [Universal]
Various Artists
UMOD 2:51
No Image
Various Artists
Delta 2:50
Tequila and More No. 1 Hits
Various Artists
Sound and Vision 2:48
The  Hit Songs of Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, 1952-62
Various Artists
Acrobat / Acrobat Music 2:46
The  Leiber-Stoller Songbook
Various Artists
Ideal 2:51
No Image Reloaded 2:50
No Image
Various Artists
Reloaded 2:50
The History Of Rhythm And Blues 1952-1957
Various Artists
Rhythm & Blues 2:52
The Vintage Collection: Blues
Various Artists
Music Digital 2:51
Treat Me Nice: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller
Various Artists
Jasmine Records
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