Hound Dog

In 1952, Brill Building songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller penned the song "Hound Dog" specifically for Willie Mae Thornton, an African-American Rhythm and Blues artist who went by the stage name "Big Mama" Thornton. Thornton's 1953 recording of the song reached the top position on the Billboard R&B chart. But, as an African-American artist during a time of segregation in America, Thornton was unable to crossover to a popular white audience on the airwaves. Just three years later, in 1956, Elvis Presley famously took the same song to the R&B, Country, and Pop charts. Elvis's version of the song reached a wide popular audience of both black and white listeners at a time when public schools, public transportation, and other shared institutions struggled to integrate. The story of these two recordings of “Hound Dog” demonstrate the ways in which music culture has provided spaces where established ideas about race relations could be challenged. In many ways, “Hound Dog” foreshadowed the changes the Civil Rights movement would promote with regards to integration and racial equality.