Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog” (1956) is one of the biggest and most instantly recognizable pop songs in history. This song that gave Elvis his longest-running #1 hit (11 weeks) in the summer of 1956 began four years earlier, when “Hound Dog” was recorded for the first time by the rhythm-and-blues singer Ellie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton in Los Angeles, California.
On this day in 1953, Big Mama Thornton and the Johnny Otis Band recorded “Hound Dog” and turned it into a smash hit on the R&B charts, where it stayed at #1 for seven weeks. It wasn’t Thornton’s recording, however, that inspired Elvis to record “Hound Dog” three years later. Presley’s inspiration came from a rewrite by a singer named Freddie Bell, who changed the original lyrics to include the now-familiar “Cryin’ all the time” and “You ain’t never caught a rabbit.” During his first Las Vegas engagement in the spring of 1956, Elvis Presley heard Freddie Bell and the Bellboys performing the reworked “Hound Dog” and added it to his repertoire almost immediately.