Hound Dog — Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton (Peacock, 1952)

Nobody sang ‘Hound Dog’ better than Big Mama Thornton. The Pop world only knows that in 1956 Elvis Presley gyrated to it. But this Leiber-Stoller song achieved initial fame when Thornton recorded her seminal version for Don Robey’s Peacock Records in 1952. Legend has it that Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller handed Thornton a paper bag with this song on it. Once Johnny Otis added his catchy arrangements, Thornton and her voice did the rest. Her version held the top spot on Billboard’s R&B charts for seven weeks in 1953. Backed by the Johnny Otis Band, Thornton’s rough voice was the perfect vehicle to admonish her man. Her tough, Blues mama persona was tied to the tradition of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, and Memphis Minnie. As with most Blues music co-opted by the Rock ‘n’ Roll world, Presley’s smooth and seamless record saw much greater financial rewards than Thornton’s gritty original.

— (Blues Foundation press release, 2006.)

2016-11-10T17:07:19+00:00 November 10th, 2016|