SONG OF THE DAY
“Hound Dog” by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton ( [single], Peacock Records, 1953). Written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller.
WHERE I HEARD IT
The disturbing 2007 film Hounddog (which, of course, I was watching because I heard it was disturbing) follows a girl (played by Dakota Fanning) who loves Elvis but learns that the blues did it all first, and eventually learns to feel those blues and that song just like Big Mama Thornton meant them to be felt, long before Elvis had hips. BTW, Jill Scott (who I LOVE) plays Willie Mae in the movie, and does “Hound Dog”-Big-Mama-style proud.
INTERESTING FACTS (a la wikipedia)
- “Hound Dog” is a twelve-bar blues written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and originally recorded by Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in 1952.
- Other early versions illustrate the differences among blues, country, and rock and roll in the mid 1950s.
- The 1956 remake by Elvis Presley is the best-known version; it is his version that is #19 on Rolling Stone’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.
- “Hound Dog” was also recorded by 5 country singers in 1953 alone, and over 26 times through 1964.
- The blues singer Big Mama Thornton’s biggest hit was Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s “Hound Dog,” which she recorded at Radio Recorders in Los Angeles on August 13, 1952.
- Thorntonâ€™s “Hound Dog” was the first record Leiber and Stoller produced themselves. They took over the session because their work had sometimes been misrepresented, and on this one they knew how they wanted the drums to sound; Johnny Otis was supposed to produce it, but they wanted him on drums. Otis received a writing credit on all 6 of the 1953 pressings.
- This 1953 Peacock Records release (#1612) was #1 on the Billboard rhythm and blues charts for seven weeks.
- Thornton gave this account of how the original was created to Ralph J. Gleason. â€œThey were just a couple of kids, and they had this song written on the back of a paper bag.â€ She added a few interjections of her own, played around with the rhythm (some of the choruses have thirteen rather than twelve bars), and had the band bark and howl like hound dogs at the end of the song. In fact, she interacts constantly in a call and response fashion during a one minute long guitar “solo” by Pete Lewis. Her vocals include lines such as: “Aw, listen to that ole hound dog howlâ€¦OOOOoooow,” “Now wag your tail,” and “Aw, get it, get it, get it.” Thornton’s delivery has flexible phrasing making use of micro-inflections and syncopations. Over a steady backbeat, she starts out singing each line as one long upbeat. When the words change from “You ain’t nothin’ but a HOUND Dog,” she begins to shift the downbeat around: You TOLD me you was high-class / but I can SEE through that, You ain’t NOTHIN’ but a hound dog. Each has a focal accent which is never repeated.
- Johnny Otis, Pete Lewis, and bassist Albert Winston are listed as “Kansas City Bill & Orchestra” on the Peacock record labels.
- Lyricist Jerome “Jerry” Leiber (born April 25, 1933) and composer Mike Stoller (born March 13, 1933) are among the most influential American songwriters and record producers in post-World War II popular music.
- They won Grammy awards for “Is That All There Is?” in 1969, and for the cast album of Smokey Joe’s Cafe, a 1995 Broadway musical revue based on their work. Smokey Joe’s Cafe was also nominated for seven Tony awards, and became the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history.Â Other awards include:
- 1985 â€“ Induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame
- 1987 â€“ Induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame
- 1988 â€“ Elvis Presley’s â€œHound Dogâ€ placed in the Grammy Hall of Fame
- 1991 â€“ ASCAP Founders’ Award
- 1994 â€“ A star placed on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in front of 7083 Hollywood Blvd., and their handprints embedded into the Hollywood Rockwalk
- 1996 â€“ National Academy of Songwriters Lifetime Achievement Award
- 2000 â€“ Johnny Mercer Award/National Academy of Popular Music
- 2005 â€“ â€œKansas City” named official song of Kansas City, Missouri
- Defining songs:
- “There Goes My Baby” (with Ben E. King (as Benjamin Nelson), Lover Patterson, and George Treadwell)
- “Hound Dog”
- “Kansas City”
- “Smokey Joe’s Cafe”
- “Yakety Yak”
- “Poison Ivy”
- “Charlie Brown”
- “Ruby Baby”
- “Stand By Me” (with Ben E. King)
- “Jailhouse Rock”
- “Love Potion No. 9″
- “Young Blood” (with Doc Pomus)
- “Is That All There Is?”
- “I’m a Woman”
- “Lucky Lips”
- “On Broadway” (with Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil)
- “Spanish Harlem” (Jerry Leiber and Phil Spector)
- Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (December 11, 1926 â€“ July 25, 1984) was an American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter.
- The B-side for her recording of “Hound Dog” was “They Call Me Big Mama,” and the single sold almost two million copies.
- She wrote and recorded “Ball ‘n’ Chain,” which became a hit for her; Janis Joplin later recorded “Ball and Chain,” and was a huge success in the late 1960s.
- Thornton was born in Ariton, Alabama. Her introduction to music started in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a church singer.
–At age 14, she left Alabama and joined Sammy Green’s Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue. Her seven-year tenure with them gave her valuable singing and stage experience, and enabled her to tour the South.
- She was also a self-taught drummer and harmonica player, and frequently played each instrument onstage.
- In 1954, Thornton was one of the eyewitnesses to the accidental self-inflicted handgun death of blues singer Johnny Ace.
- Thornton performed at the Monterey Jazz Festival in 1966 and 1968, and at the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1979.
- In 1965 she performed with the American Folk Blues Festival package in Europe.
- Thornton continued to record for Vanguard, Mercury, and other small labels in the 1970s and to work the blues festival circuit until her death in 1984, the same year she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.
VIDEO OF THE DAY
And with Buddy Guy: