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Elvis Presley‘s “Hound Dog” wasn’t originally by Elvis. The tune was written in 10 or 15 minutes. Subsequently, one of the writers of the song said it had to be performed in a specific way.

Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’ was by the same writers behind Ben E. King’s ‘Stand by Me’

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were two of the most important pop songwriters ever, having penned classics like Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me” and The Drifters’ “On Broadway.” They also co-wrote “Hound Dog,” which was originally by Big Mama Thornton. During a 2022 interview with Variety, Stoller discussed how the original version of “Hound Dog” came together.

“[Producer] Johnny [Otis] said, ‘Are you familiar with Willie Mae Thornton?'” he recalled. “I said, no. He said, ‘Well, I gotta do a session with her, so you better get Jerry and come over to my place and listen to it, because I’m gonna need some songs.’ So we went over, and she knocked us out. We went back to my house and, in about 10 or 15 minutes, we wrote ‘Hound Dog’ and took it back.”

Big Mama Thornton was told that she should growl the song instead of sing it

Stoller discussed how Thornton made the song her own. “When it was just written lyrics on a piece of paper, she started to croon it,” he said. “So then we had to perform it for her, as I played the piano and Jerry sang. The band was cracking up, to hear Jerry singing as if he were a blues singer, let’s put it that way. But she got it.

“The next day we went into the studio to record, at Radio Recorders Annex (in Hollywood), and as we were walking in, Jerry said, ‘You know, she ought to growl it,'” he added. Stoller said her first take of “Hound Dog” was great while the second was perfect. Elvis covered “Hound Dog” and the rest is history. While his cover was more popular than Thornton’s, her “Hound Dog” has only grown in stature.


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Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’ was an A-side with ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ and broke a record

“Hound Dog” was released as a double A-side along with another classic: “Don’t Be Cruel.” The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits reports the tunes climbed to No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 for 11 weeks. That broke a record. No songs lasted that long at the top of the chart in the United States until Santana released “Smooth,” which was a huge hit across 1999 and 2000.

“Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” both appeared on the compilation album Elvis: 30 #1 Hits. That record was No. 1 on the Billboard 200 for three weeks lasting 167 weeks on the chart in total. Both songs remain among the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll‘s most famous tunes. Notably, Doja Cat sampled “Hound Dog” for her rap hit “Vegas.”

“Hound Dog” is one of the most influential songs ever written even if it didn’t take very long to write.