Study Guide

Hound Dog Lyrics

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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

Quick Thought

These lines reflect the most significant lyrical revisions that songwriter Freddie Bell made when he cleaned up the song for the mass market.

Deep Thought

In the original version of the song, written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and sung by Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton, the lyrics say:

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.

To spell it out, the line basically suggests that the singer will no longer reward her "hound dog" visitor with sex. It almost goes without saying that this line was too racy for mainstream audiences. So, Freddie Bell, of Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, rewrote it, along with a few others.

The revised lyrics strip the verse of its sexual innuendo and leave it largely meaningless. But, according to insiders, even without the suggestive lyric, the song carried an edge.  "Hound Dog" co-writer Jerry Lieber says that the song's most famous line was "just code for 'You ain't nothin' but a m-----f----r.'" (Source)

Well, they said you was high classed
Well, that was just a lie

Quick Thought

Television show host Steve Allen used this line to poke fun at Elvis Presley and "Hound Dog."

Deep Thought

When Elvis Presley appeared on the Steve Allen show to perform "Hound Dog" shortly after his controversial Milton Berle appearance (you know, for his hips), Allen dressed Presley in a tuxedo with tails and had him sing to a top-hat-wearing hound dog. Allen always insisted that the entire spoof was in good-natured fun and that Elvis enjoyed the gag. But band members later complained, and suggested they felt disrespected by Allen's treatment.

Allen was a piano player and a composer himself. He claimed to have written thousands of songs; indeed, some of them were performed by lounge singers Perry Como and Steve Lawrence. A lot of people have argued that Allen's well-known dislike of rock and roll lay beneath his mocking treatment of Presley. 

Allen and others have maintained that the entire incident was perfectly innocent and in keeping with the comedy format of the show. "When I booked Elvis," Allen later explained, "I naturally had no interest in just presenting him vaudeville-style and letting him do his spot as he might in concert. Instead we worked him into the comedy fabric of our program." (Source)

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