DiscoverSwitched on PopElvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”
Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”

Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”

Update: 2022-07-261
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Baz Luhrmann’s hit box office hit biopic Elvis has spurred new interest in the music of The King. Elvis Presley’s streaming subscribers has grown by two million listeners on Spotify since the film’s release according to ChartMetric, and if you’re hearing a lot more “Hound Dog” these days, it might be partially due to the success of Doja Cat’s hit song “Vegas,” which updates – and interpolates – the song for contemporary listeners. 


Doja Cat’s version samples from the original 1953 “Hound Dog,” sung by Big Mama Thornton and written by acclaimed songwriter team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (whose credits also include Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”). The original is a sauntering blues song with a raunchy tale about a two timing man; Presley, who is frequently said to have stolen the song from Thorton, instead sings a tepid lyric about an actual dog, and radically changes the groove. 


But in an interview with Rolling Stone, Stoller says Presley didn’t steal the song at all. Rather, he adapted one of many covers of the song, specifically the version performed by the Las Vegas lounge act Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. Their “Hound Dog” borrows its upbeat rhythm from a song responding to the original “Hound Dog,” titled “Bear Cat.” It’s a similar rhythm to the one we hear on the contemporary Doja Cat version, “Vegas,” which heavily features samples of Thornton’s original vocals: listening closely reveals a song that synthesizes a complicated music history by uniting the best parts of the many versions of “Hound Dog.” 


Listen to the latest episode of Switched On Pop and uncover the long legacy of “Hound Dog.”


Songs Discussed


  • Big Mama Thorton - Hound Dog

  • Elvis - Hound Dog

  • Doja Cat - Vegas

  • Esther Phillips - Hound Dog

  • Jack Turner - Hound Dog

  • Rufus Thomas - Bear Cat

  • Freddie Bell and the Bellboys

  • T.L.C. - No Scrubs

  • Sporty Thievz - No Pigeons 

  • W.C. Handy - St. Louis Blues

  • Duke Ellington - Conga brava

  • Sister Rosetta Tharpe - Didn’t It Rain

  • Fats Domino - Mardi Gras in New Orleans

  • Dave Bartholomew - Country Boy

  • Little Richard - Slipping’ And Sliding’

  • Jack Harlow - Dua Lipa

  • Future - Puffin on Zootiez

  • Hitkidd, Gorilla - F.N.F. (Let’s Go)

  • Bad Bunny - Después de la Playa

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Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”

Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat, and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”

Vulture