Hey baby I'm here to tell you about yourself
You ain't nothin' but a hound dog, scratchin' all the time
You ain't nothin' but a hound dog baby, scratchin' all the time
You ain't caught no rabbits you ain't no friend of mine.
Do you remember those lyrics made famous by none other than Elvis Presley? If you’re young, old or somewhere in-between you’ve probably familiar with the lyrics and beat. As I’m writing this I can still hear it with that voice of Presley. He recorded the song back in 1956. It was the longest-running #1 hit (11 weeks).
However, do you know the rest of the story? Well Willie Mae Thornton actually recorded that song 4 years earlier. Let me tell you about her. She was born in Ariton, Alabama. Her father was a minister and her mother was a singer. I’ll get right to the point in the late 1940’s a new kind of popular blues was coming out of the clubs in Texas and Los Angeles. In 1952 she recorded Hound Dog while working with Johnny Otis. She was famous for the transgressive gender expression. She often dressed as a man in her performances wearing work shirts and slacks. She was openly gay and performed risqué songs unabashedly. Her play with gender and sexuality set the stage for later rock-and-roll artists.
She was praised for subverting traditional roles of African-American women. During her career she was nominated for the Blues Music Awards six times. In 1984 she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. In the 1970’s she began drinking heavy and died. She went from a hefty 350 pounds to 95 pounds before her death. Now when you hear those famous lyrics by the King you’ll know it was first sang by the Queen.