Monday, January 25, 2010

LADIES FIRST: 'You Ain't Nothing But a HOUND DOG!'

LADIES FIRST brings you another classic that 'she did first'.

Today it's the monster classic "Hound Dog".

"Hound Dog" was written and produced by the budding talents Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, and first recorded by the irrepressible BIG MAMA THORNTON. Along with her blues-belting style, Mama also retooled some of the lyrics, did flavorful ad libs, and hard accents in the phrasing that gave the song its fierce identity.

BIG MAMA THORNTON -"Hound Dog" (1952)

Thornton's version was recorded in 1952, but released in the spring of 1953. Within a month there were a handful of Country artists who did their take on it. One of the most unsung is this one by BETSY GAY:

BETSY GAY -"Hound Dog" (1953)

Memphis radio DJ RUFUS THOMAS did an answer record to it, taking mock affront to his nickname as 'hound dog'. It was too similar and Sun Records got in a lot of legal trouble. Later, Rufus and his daughter Carla Thomas recorded classics for Stax Records.

RUFUS THOMAS -"Bear Cat" (1953)

A burlesque group called FREDDIE BELL AND THE BELLBOYS did a campy, striptease-style take on it. Freddie smoothed over some of the lyrics, adding such pivotal lines as "cryin' all the time" and "You ain't never caught a rabbit, and you ain't no friend of mine." They performed it regularly in Las Vegas.


The young and barely-known ELVIS PRESLEY saw their show and put it in his rep for fun. When he appeared on the huge TV hit, "The Milton Berle Show", Milton urged him to leave his rhythm guitar and stand out front. The song's strippery rhythm and Elvis' startlingly sexual gyrations (and air of threatening menace) caused a storm of shocked controversy and made him a national star overnight.

This may have done as much to inject Rock'n'Roll into world awareness as any other event.

ELVIS -"Hound Dog" (1956)

Rock'n'Roll was written off as dumb pop for juvie kids by the robot mainstream of the times. They probably thought it was cute to trot out little BRENDA LEE like Shirley Temple in the family parlor. But for me, you can still hear all the raw blues anger and cocky swagger in Brenda's great voice:

BRENDA LEE -"Hound Dog" (1956?)

JIMI HENDRIX loved Elvis and also all the Blues greats like Big Mama Thornton, who was then showing up at the same Blues and Rock festivals reclaiming her song (with her cool penchant for wearing mens' clothing). Here he is jotting off genius like it was a gesture:

JIMI HENDRIX -"Hound Dog (acoustic)" (1968)

And the revolution continues...

LILIANA ROSE -"Hound Dog" (2008)

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