Switched On Pop | Elvis, Big Mama Thornton, Doja Cat and the Long Legacy of “Hound Dog”
A podcast breaking down the music of pop hits.
Switched On Pop
Published 26 July 2022
Doja Cat

Pop music surrounds us, but how often do we really listen to what we’re hearing? Switched on Pop is the podcast that pulls back the curtain on pop music. Each episode, join musicologist Nate Sloan and songwriter Charlie Harding as they reveal the secret formulas that make pop songs so infectious. By figuring out how pop hits work their magic, you’ll fall in love with songs you didn’t even know you liked.

Baz Luhrmann
’s hit box office hit biopic Elvis has spurred new interest in the music of The King.

Elvis Presley’s streaming subscribers has grown by two million listeners on Spotify since the film’s release according to ChartMetric, and if you’re hearing a lot more “Hound Dog” these days, it might be partially due to the success of Doja Cat’s hit song “Vegas”, which updates – and interpolates – the song for contemporary listeners.

Doja Cat
’s version samples from the original 1953 “Hound Dog”, sung by Big Mama Thornton and written by acclaimed songwriter team Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller (whose credits also include Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me”).

The original is a sauntering blues song with a raunchy tale about a two timing man; Presley, who is frequently said to have stolen the song from Thorton, instead sings a tepid lyric about an actual dog, and radically changes the groove.

But in an interview with Rolling Stone, Stoller says Presley didn’t steal the song at all. Rather, he adapted one of many covers of the song, specifically the version performed by the Las Vegas lounge act Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. Their “Hound Dog” borrows its upbeat rhythm from a song responding to the original “Hound Dog”, titled “Bear Cat”.

It’s a similar rhythm to the one we hear on the contemporary Doja Cat version, “Vegas”, which heavily features samples of Thornton’s original vocals: listening closely reveals a song that synthesizes a complicated music history by uniting the best parts of the many versions of “Hound Dog”.

Listen to the latest episode of Switched On Pop and uncover the long legacy of “Hound Dog”.

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