hound dogs and baby books

Es­ti­mated reading time is 2 minutes.

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:

Elvis Presley.

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


Elvis SteveAllen hounddog 800

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.


Elvis 1957 goldsuit standup 1000

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 . . .


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