ACCORDING TO MY BABY BOOK—and I don’t know if that is a Catholic tradition or what but I don’t meet a lot of people who know what they are—when I was 5-years old, my favorite song was Sh-Boom. (“Life could be a dream sh-boom sh-boom.”) That would have been the Crew Cuts’ version, of course.
Growing up in Beaver Cleaver’s Perfect (White) America, few of us white folk heard much of the music made by our fellow black folk on the radio. (Except Nat “King” Cole and then Johnny Mathis.)
Until 1956 . . .
I still don’t think most folks have a clue as to how revolutionary Hound Dog was as creative manipulation of sound in the studio.
While ’56 wasn’t the year that rock & roll was “invented,” it was the year in which it began to scare the schidt out of over-reactionary white parents through the forty-eight states.
And the fear was put in them there folks by what many of them quite literally considered to be the spawn of the Devil:
But ultimately the year came to down to an accusation that rocked the world and rolled it over and over: “You ain’t nothin’ but a hound dog, cryin’ all the time. You ain’t never caught a rabbit and you ain’t no friend of mine!”
If anyone that I knew had heard Big Mama Thornton’s original version of Hound Dog before 1968 or so, I certainly never heard them talk about it. Outside of the big cities, music like this was not played on pop radio stations in the northeastern United States were something for record collectors to find and then turn their friends onto.
Elvis the Pelvis and rock & roll and heartbroken hotels and stayin’ off of blue suede shoes and living without romance and loving tenderly and, of course, not being cruel to a heart that’s true.
Anyway, listing an innocuous pop song as my fave in my baby book (“Jiminy Crickets, Mom! I was five! What as I doing with a furshlugginer baby book?!?”) was probably Mommy’s wishful thinking. What I remember is different: my favorite record then is still my favorite record now, and Hound Dog is anything but innocuous! 1
FEATURED IMAGE: The photo at the top of this page is of Elvis singing Hound Dog to Sherlock, a hound dog on The Steve Allen Show. This show aired on July 1, 1956, and went head-to-head with Ed Sullivan’s show. Allen beat Sullivan in the ratings for the first time and probably “forced” Sullivan to invite Presley to perform on his show.
POSTSCRIPTUALLY, the funny thing is that almost sixty years later and 1) I till have hound dogs and baby books as part of my everyday memory, and 2) I still don’t think most folks have gotten just how revolutionary this record was and still is! 2
1 Was there anything more innocuous back then than a blonde crew cut? Well, maybe hound dogs and baby books . . .
2 And you might want to ask why my Mommy was keeping a baby book for me while I was approaching my fifth birthday . . .