S2-E08 Hound dog

Big Mama Thorton

Pour ce 8e épisode, nous allons parler d’un chien de chasse qui n’a jamais attrapé un lièvre. 

S2-E08 Hound dog

You can find a summary in English below.

La version originale de Big Mama peut s’écouter ici.
La version télévisée du king est là
La version de Freddie Bell est ici.

For my Friends who don’t speak French a summary in English. I hope it can help to follow what I say :

Hound Dog, a piece that sticks of Elvis Presley, so much that his interpretation remains engraved in the rock’n’roll history. Indeed it is with this title that Americans (and Americans women) discovered the king’s legwork. Such a scandal in 1956 that it earned him to be filmed above the belt during a second television performance. He recorded the song on an EP in July of the same year with the Jordanaires in the chorus. I already mentioned the Jordanaires in season 1 of this podcast in the episode dedicated to the song « oh les filles » (« Sugaree » see episode 3 of the first season). The success of Presley is phenomenal (5,000,000 copies in 6 months) and will bring the king to want to work with the composers of the song, the famous Leiber & Stoller of which I have already spoken in season 1 about the song « l’homme à la moto » /‘Black Denim Trousers & Motorcycle Boots’ (see first episode of season 1).

Sample of  the original Big Mama version

Four years before Presley, the song was performed for the first time by Big Mama Thornton. The text is not exactly the same and the arrangement is especially very different: it’s a blues and not yet a rock’n’roll, we are in 1953! The title is a success and spends several weeks at the top of the American R&B charts. A success, yes,  but Big Mama will only receive $500 for her performance. The song is quickly covered by other artists, especially country-music. Presley’s version is inspired by the one from Freddie Bell & The Bellboys that the king saw on stage in Las Vegas. In addition of a rockabilly rhythm, the text is watered down and stripped of everything that could (and should) be understood with a sexual connotation in the puritanical America of the 50s. When Big Mama sang:

You ain’t nothing but a hound dog / Been snoopin’ ’round my door

You can wag your tail / But I ain’t gonna feed you no more

We understand between the lines that it is not a question of a dog but rather of a man who lives on his hooks.

In the version sung for white audiences, it becomes

You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog / Cryin’ all the time.

Well, you ain’t never caught a rabbit / And you ain’t no friend of mine.

Even with a twisted mind, it’s hard to hear anything other than:

You’re nothing but a hunting dog / Who cries all day.

You’ve never caught a single rabbit, / And you’re not a friend of mine!

Either way, the king doesn’t need the text to fire up the girls, his footwork is enough.

Although Hound Dog’s Version of Elvis has become the most famous, it’s important to remember Big Mama Thorton’s contribution. The original version of Big Mama remains a classic of blues music, one of the origins of rock n’ roll. That said, once again it was white people who hit the jackpot with this hound dog.

  Before going to find Big Mama’s hunting dog, see you soon for a new episode of Ils Ont Repris Ma Chanson.