Home > Songs & Tours Reviewed > ELVIS - YOU AIN'T NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG

Songs and Tours Reviewed

by Geoffrey Mc Donnell (Australia)

Willie Mae 'Big Mama' Thornton(a Duke/Peacock artist) first recorded Hound Dog (by Leiber & Stoller) in 1952 selling half a Million copies! Leiber & Stoller specifically wrote Hound Dog for her - which she received via Johnny Otis.

      'Big' Mama Thortons version (Original Lyrics):

      You Ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog
      Quit Snooping round my door
      You Ain't nothin' but a Hound Dog
      Quit Snooping round my door
      You can Wag your Tail
      But I ain't gonna feed you no more

      You told me you was high classed
      But I could see through that
      Yes You told me you was high classed
      But I could see through that
      You can stay outdoors
      You ain't no friend of mine.
      (returns to 1st verse after this)

340lb 'Big' Mama Thorton was an ideal choice. Many, many artists sang Hound Dog and also claimed to have reworked the material and wanted a part of the writers credit in return! In 1953 Rufus Thomas pinched Hound Dog and had his brief 'Bearcat' 'hit' his first for Sun Records. When I spoke briefly with Rufus (whilst he was enjoying a milkshake next to the Sun Studio in June 1995). Rufus seemed quite unashamed of 'stealing' Hound Dog' (yet Sam Phillips had to pay royalties to Peacock!) and of course it was a 'hit' for him. After meeting Rufus, it was a strange experience going next door (for the tour) and hearing his 'original' Sun Record having Met a Living Legend a few minutes ago!!!

Really although Elvis had heard and was 'familiar' with Hound Dog, it wasn't until he went to perform in Las Vegas in late April-May 1956 that he took a REAL interest in it. Here in Vegas with only 28 shows of 12 minutes duration Elvis had plenty of time to see other acts around at other Hotels (something he would do clear through to 1976)

One of the acts Elvis was watching was Freddie & The Bellboys who performed in the Lounge at the 'Sands'. Freddie Bell had added some different Lyrics to Hound Dog :_'You ain't never caught a rabbit/You ain't no friend of mine.' Whilst these lyrics weren't popular with Jerry Leiber (although with their sole rights to the song the money helped make them happier)because originally the concept was a Woman's song singing 'You can wag your tail but I ain't gonna feed you no more'. A song all about a Woman throwing a gigolo out of her house!. Elvis really liked this version and pretty soon after finishing his 2 week debut Vegas stint he was back on the road starting on May 13th 1956 performing in St Paul, Minnesota. However apparently it wasn't until his part in the Memphis Cotton Festival show on Tuesday May 15th that he first performed Hound Dog 'Live' before an audience of 7,000. Elvis's version wasn't like the slow, Boogie Woogie 'Mama' Thorton version at all, with it being much faster with different lyrics to Leiber, the song seemed almost 'unrecognizable' to the 'original' song writing team.

      Hound Dog (Presley Version 2.7.56):

      You ain't nothin' but a hound
      Dog, just cryin' all the time
      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.

      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Girl,you ain't never caught a Rabbit
      And you ain't no friend of mine.

      You ain't nothin' but a hound
      Dog, just cryin' all the time
      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.


      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Girl,you ain't never caught a Rabbit
      And you ain't no friend of mine.

      -Instrumental-(shorter with voices)

      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Well, they said you were high-
      Classed ,well,that was just a lie
      Girl,you ain't never caught a Rabbit
      And you ain't no friend of mine.

      You ain't nothin' but a hound
      Dog, just cryin' all the time
      You ain't nothin' but a hound
      Dog cryin' all the time
      Well, you ain't never caught a Rabbit
      you ain't no friend of mine.

The great sadness for me here is that not even 1 alternate take(such as we have with HEARTBREAK HOTEL) IS 'AVAILABLE' from a reported 31 'takes'. Wisely Elvis decided to keep to the 'fast' version of the song to 'capture' the energy in a studio recording and it's clear from take 31 selected by Elvis that the BAND are thoroughly 'warmed up' and playing very solidly with the driving beat. 2 instrumental 'breaks' break up the monotony of just 2 verses of simple lyrics and in the 2nd instrumental break the Jordanaires voices are present going aaah. Listening to the released single all the 'excitement' WAS captured on record and proves what a great job was done in making it. Too bad we can't hear some of the earlier takes to see how it actually developed that day 2.7.56 in the studio.

Soon Hound Dog would be established as his Closing Song, something that wouldn't change until the 1968 'Special' or Las Vegas in 1969.

Date Intro Fast Instrumental slow R/T Comments /10

16.5.56 yes yes yes As Ending 2'25" Repeats 'HOUND DOG' 9
5.6.56 (Milton Berle show) yes yes As Ending 2'25" Repeats 'HOUND DOG' 9
1.7.56 yes by Steve Allen no yes yes 2'10" NO repeat'hound dog'high class lyrics-nice bass line! Hard edged sound 9
2.7.56 yes x 2 no 2'12" 2 instrumental breaks 10
9.9.56 Ed Sullivan Show yes no no 0'34" Much shortened version 8
26.9.56 A/S yes yes yes yes 2'13" Repeats 'Hound Dog' 9
26.9.56 E/S yes yes yes yes, but fast ending 3'29" 'Don't be cruel' instrumental ending 9
10.10.56 no yes yes no 1'33" An all fast version 8
15.12.56 no yes yes After 1'22" 3'27" H.Dog x2'don't be cruel' instrumental ending. 10
6.1.57 no yes no no 0'50" All fast - Famous filmed from waist up appearance 7
31.3.57 ? ? ? ? ? From 'Dutch Fan Club CD' -
1959 no yes yes no 0'30"? Que cera cera version 5
1959 no yes yes no 1'13"? 1st verse only on piano 6
25.3.61 no yes yes 3 times! no 3'18"? 'your just an old Hound Dog' 9
27.7.61 Studio yes no no 3" 'Joke' line after take 1 of A Dog's Life! 5
27.6.68 6PM Florida intro yes no no Few seconds 'You ain't nothing but a Hound Dog,crying all the time' -
29.6.68 6PM no yes Only backing no 30" "Snooping round my Door" - original line! 7
29.6.68 8PM no yes no just the backing no 33" 1st verse only repeated nothing 'special' here 6

It is indeed 'remarkable' but once again a great loss that out of maybe out of around 120 'live' versions and 31 'studio' versions that Elvis performed between May 1956 and June 1968 we only have about a dozen of these to listen too which being less than a twelfth means that the VAST MAJORITY are missing.! Thankfully though many of the KEY versions from Between May 56' and July 56' ARE AVAILABLE. These are the MOST IMPORTANT because they defined how Elvis would perform it both at the time and much later on.

16th May 1956 in Little Rock.

This is a VERY important version because it is the only one available from the FIRST Tour that Elvis started performing it on since hearing it 'live' in Las Vegas.This was a great tour in many ways and after offering his version of THE PLATTERS 'ONLY YOU' to fans during the Evening Show in La Cross, Wisconsin on 14.5.56 the next night in Memphis on 15th May 1956 Elvis offered his hometown crowd of 7,000 his version of HOUND DOG as his closing number.

The 16.5.56 Little Rock version is very high energy and has interesting leed in dialogue where Elvis says 'If your not here friends, remember one thing' - then he goes straight into HOUND DOG (repeating the word HOUND DOG) DURING AN OBVIOUS WILD VERSION. After the instrumental his FAST version appears to end at 2'04" that is until at 2'17". Elvis continues with a slow and raunchy version (till over 3 minutes) after saying 'remember one thing again' for almost another minute until he ends the show. Afterwoods in his dressing room interviewed by Ray Green of KXLR Radio (between 2 shows here) Elvis seems happy to be in Little Rock 'cutting loose' with the fans!.

Milton Berle Show June 5th 1956

This is THE VERSION that caused ALL the controversy and really Elvis's version here seems nothing much until the SLOW version at the ending where he did all the 'bumps' and 'grinds' that made his version of HOUND DOG so famous!. AFTER this show was over everyone had PLENTY to talk about! OVERNIGHT Elvis became a cause celebre and their was no middle ground you were either FOR or AGAINST him. Meanwhile Billboard seemed to take a more reasoned analysis saying that Elvis's popularity was UNSTOPABLE. This is also the version that many fans will remember as featuring in the 1981 movie 'THIS IS ELVIS'.

Steve Allen Show July 1st 1956

After the 'famous' version on the Milton Berle show on 5th June 1956 Elvis was told that he must tone down his act during HOUND DOG and wear a Tuxedo and Tails whilst singing to a nervous basset hound. Elvis was kinda out of dress......first time he ever wore a tuxedo......but put in a little humour..and wore his blue suede shoes!!. He sang the song to the dog named Sherlock. (A basset Hound)-and you may recall...it was a much tamed version.....not like the earlier one performed on the Milton Berle Show. During his 'straight + serious' performance Elvis performs as best as he is able to given the 'difficult circumstances' and it's too his credit that he does pull it off. However the whole appearance has been extremely embarrassing for Elvis and forever afterwoods in 70's 'live' performances of HOUND DOG Elvis would joke about this appearance during his pre-song dialogue. Not surprisingly later on that day when interviewed on Hy Gardener Calling Elvis seems extremely subdued, sleepy eyed and defensive about his 'live act'. Filmed close to midnight obviously after a nights rest Elvis had the right confident attitude back for his famous July 2nd recording session where he actually recorded HOUND DOG.

July 2nd 1956 Record release version.

This recorded version seems miles removed from July 1st's awkward appearance as Elvis was determined to put an up-tempo version on record and one feels some of the anger he must of felt from July 1st gave him extra energy/drive for this strong recorded version. Just over 2 minutes long it contains 6 verses which have to be repeated as there are only 2 different verses in the actual lyrics. Released on July 13th HOUND DOG is released with DON'T BE CRUEL and in just a few weeks is another million seller for Elvis before being over turned by the success of DON'T BE CRUEL. By the end of the year nearly 4 million singles were sold!.

Ed Sullivan Show 9.9.56

Hosted by Charles Laughton in New York Elvis performs a very brief fast 2 verse version of HOUND DOG lasting just 30 seconds. Giving it an intro Elvis says 'As a great Philosopher once said' before launching into this rapid version.

26th September 1956
The Tupelo Mississippi/Alabama Fair and Dairy Show A/S + E/S performances.

Once again at the A/S Elvis gives HOUND DOG the leed in of 'As a great Philosopher once said' and as well as repeating the HOUND DOG twice he does and incredible SLOW half speed ending which really drive the crowd wild!.

At the Evening Show its even 'wilder' as surprisingly after a similar performance as during the Afternoon. Elvis at the end of the SLOW version shifts back to the FAST version again finally ending with a 'DON'T BE CRUEL' instrumental making this version nearly 4 minutes long. If Elvis could do this shifting backwards and forwards with the speed of his version working the crowd up and down, then it becomes apparent that ANY length version of HOUND DOG is possible from just 30 seconds to many, many minutes in length!

Ed Sullivan Show 10th October 1956

This version is all FAST but not as rushed as the 9.9.56 version running for 3 times as long as before.

Louisiana Hayride 15th December 1956

This version is again 'live' and features the usual FAST/INSTRUMENTAL/SLOW running order with the SLOW end seeming very drawn out as Elvis moves. Finally this version ends with an instrumental DON'T BE CRUEL ending after 3 and a half minutes.

Ed Sullivan Show 6th January 1957

This is the version where whenever it looked like Elvis might move his hips in his famous gyrations the Camera just filmed him from the waist up! This is an all fast 50 second performance. Many, many times after this Elvis would joke about being filmed from the 'waist up'. Interestingly photos from 28th October 1957 show Elvis (as in the Platinum box set ) with RCA's Dog 'Nipper' on stage at the Pan Pacific Auditorium in L.A. capitalizing on his popularity of performing HOUND DOG

Detroit's Olympia Stadium 31st March 1957

This tape recording comes from the Dutch Fan Club "it's Elvis time" release and just about you can hear a tiny bit of HOUND DOG winding up recorded at this show-unfortunately the sound is so poor and incomplete it cannot be reviewed, clearly though from fans present Elvis was doing his "gyrations" and the fans were going nuts!.

Germany 1959

These versions feature Elvis at the piano and amount to a bit of fooling around with singing 'shall I be HOUND DOG , shall I be Mutt' before singing the first verse only and some instrumental end on the piano.

Pearl Harbor 25th March 1961

Time between version now is getting longer and this benefit performance would be the last for over 7 years. This time Elvis changes the lyrics to 'Your just an old HOUND DOG' and with 3 instrumentals it's quite a lengthy if only a FAST version.

27th July 1965 - 'brief' studio joke version whilst recording 'A Dog's Life'

This is very funny as we get a line after take 1 of 'A Dog's Life'!. Indeed it's hardly surprising after a take of yet another 'b' grade movie song such as 'A DOGS LIFE' that Elvis would end take 1 with 'You ain't nothing but a Hound Dog' before the studio engineer asks 'what do you want to do next Elvis?'.

27th June 1968 6PM Show

This is just a I liner given by Elvis as he is explaining (after being promoted by D.J.Fontana) about how in Florida one time the Police came out and watched his version of HOUND DOG ..so all he could do was move his little finger (Elvis then sings the 1 liner joking about the incident.)

29th June 1968 6PM Show

Elvis now is performing HOUND DOG in the middle of 3 songs HEARTBREAK HOTEL/HOUND DOG/ALL SHOOK UP to an Orchestral backing.The nature of this seems to make HOUND DOG the weakest performed of the 3 songs and here it is just about 30 seconds worth- however apart from a fast just repeating the first verse he does in fact feature the original line of "Snooping round my Door" which is VERY INTERESTING!

29th June 1968 8PM SHOW

Here in this 'Comeback Special' stand - up show HOUND DOG has the raw energy but it's only 33 seconds in length reduced now to just repeats of the 1st verse over and over again in a fast version. Sandwitched once again between HEARTBREAK HOTEL and ALL SHOOK UP it suffers from the frantic pace of the 'Medley'.

KEY: rating of versions(don't forget this is in the context of each tour Las Vegas/Tahoe season and a 8/10 in 1969 can't really be matched with 1976 or 77' versions but both would be 'good' to listen too). Final note this rating is meant as a guide only and NOT 100% accurate-i.e. just HOW do you accurately RATE every Elvis version?? Rather than write to me if you think my rating of 7/10 should really be 8/10 for a particular version, then please make your own notes!

/10 Meaning of this ratings:

1 Extremely short version and without any interest-just a token-often in medley end
2 Still very short,poor and without any due respect the song deserves.
3 'throwaway' version uninspired completely routine and without anything special.
4 Very poor version below average and in some very basic way-i.e. words missing
5 Pretty average version complete but unmemorable from any other version.
6 Average-but ok version he does the song-even if weak in places still ok to listen.

7 Ok version(for the tour/season) not the best but certainly ok and has some energy
8 Good version usually well sung with a full version and with plenty of interest.
9 Very good version almost superb may be very strong or just typically good.
10 Excellent version -may be 'unique' or outstanding version and rarely this good!.

Las Vegas International Hotel 1969

Date Intro Fast Instrumental slow R/T Comments /10

3.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 1'44" Just a fast repeat 1st verse 7
5.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 1'56" 'high class lyrics'-good 8
6.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 1'35" 'high class lines'-energetic 7
12.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 3'28" Long intro- pretty ok. 8
12.8.69 MS* #see yes yes no 3'40" 2 minute intro good effort. 9
13.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 2'58" Pretty good- strong start. 8
14.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 3'41" 2'20" length intro-great! 10
15.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 3'36" 2'10" length intro-ex start! 10
16.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 3'32" 2'10" intro-funny + good. 9
18.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 3'20" Pretty strong version 8
19.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 3'29" Says he's busted his pants! 10
22.8.69 DS Cut yes yes no 1'39" Intro is 'cut out' v.strong. 8
23.8.69 DS Cut yes yes no 3'13" Intro laughing + strong 9
24.8.69 DS yes yes yes no 3'54" James Burton instrumental, Ok 9
25.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 3'40" Square eye/deeper- great! 10
26.8.69 MS yes yes yes no 3'20" RCA version on 'IN PERSON' good version. 9

HOUND DOG in this 'Premiere' Vegas season seems to me rather 'the same' just a continual repeat of the 1st verse and YOU at the start of each time sounding like he's almost throwing up as he sings it. However you can't fault Elvis's ENTHUSIASM whilst performing here and there is no comparism to the poor versions from say August 1973 where in Medley format he first lost interest in performing the song. In fact the main interest in his performances to me here are the brilliant and 'inventive' leed in Dialogue that Elvis gives before performing it. Here is what Elvis said before his 12.8.69 M/S *version.

"When I tried to think of a special song for tonight , my message song-something that really says something. The reason why you're here. I really gave it a lot of serious thought, and this is what I came up with- I looked here square in the eye because that's all she had one big aquare eye, I said BABY, she said 'huh?huh?huh?huh?. She was a weirdo too you know. She had a guitar too you know. BABY (she looked up) is that your pick? That's what I did you know a funny looking pick, just trying you know anyway. We went onto another subject you know all that sweat falling on the floor. I said BABY - she said DEEPER baby, baby (much audience laughter) so er just a matter of time boy they are gonna get me that for sure. So right in her face you know it was a very tender she said what's that on the floor you know sweat, so I got up in her face and said: Baby you got on hair spray and she said yeah? Because you don't need it, she didn't know what I was talking about so she left. She thought he's a Squirrel man just really upset me you know. So I stood their for a long time and looked at the floor, so er it was a very tender moment and I was up near her face and said eh "YOU AIN'T NOTHING BUT A HOUND DOG" after the end of the song Elvis continues:-SSSSSS..Ladies and Gentlemen you'll have to excuse me a minute. I've just busted my pants ! MAN! I've got to change clothes excuse me (Instrumental) hold it HOLD IT!, IT'S NOT REALLY THAT BAD I JUST FELT A LITTLE BREEZE!."

The fast repeat seems to be totally for effect rather than any actual musical value. It is introduced as his 'special' message song for tonight and says this is what I came up with before segueing into it. Just about ALL versions are 'good' and CD's of the 3.8.69 D/S, 23.8.69 D/S and 26.8.69 D/S are very recommended listening!.