Elvis Presley’s songwriters defend him against accusations of song theft

Elvis Presley had more than 30 number-one singles during his career, but one of them is mired in a major scandal. The King was accused of “stealing” the song, but his songwriters and the song’s creators denied the allegations. This week in 1956, on August 4, Elvis Presley’s fourth number one single reached the top of the charts. Heartbreak Hotel, I Want You, I Need You, I Love You, and Don’t Be Cruel were already three of the 21-year-old singer’s biggest hits. And he was eager to earn a fourth. Early in July 1956, Elvis recorded Hound Dog before releasing it later that month. Once the song reached the top of the charts, its popularity was relentless. It debuted at number 24 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart before climbing the ladder. However, the song was made popular by a black singer named Big Mama Thornton.

The Alabama-born singer pioneered a segment of the rock and roll movement, distinguishing herself with an extraordinary voice and singing style. In 1952, she released Hound Dog four years before Elvis. Despite this, his songwriters support him. Hound Dog was written originally by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Recently, the latter guested on an episode of the Rolling Stone Podcast, where he recalled hearing Elvis’ rendition on the radio.  Stoller emphasized that Elvis “did not steal” Big Mama Thornton’s song. Instead, he asserted that the group Freddie Bell and the Bellboys inspired Elvis.

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The author demonstrated this by pointing out that Elvis used Freddie Bell’s musical and lyrical modifications in his recording. He noted that this was sufficient evidence that Elvis had not plagiarized Big Mama Thornton. Whether or not Elvis stole the song, his name will go down in history. More than 10 million copies of Hound Dog by The King were sold worldwide. In addition, he performed it live on The Steve Allen Show. Stoller maintained that Big Mama Thornton’s rendition was vastly superior despite these accolades. Stoller stated that Elvis’ rendition was less exciting than Big Mama Thornton’s. He stated, “It lacked the fantastic groove that Big Mama’s record possessed.” Stoller and Leiber held a special place in their hearts for Big Mama Thornton.

They heard her singing in the early 1950s and fell in love with her voice immediately. According to legend, Leiber and Stoller composed Hound Dog for Big Mama Thornton in “just 15 minutes” after witnessing her performance. “I cannot recall the name of the song,” Stoller recalled. However, she knocked us out. Although they held Big Mama Thornton in high regard, they continued to collaborate with Elvis in the years that followed. Over the years, Stoller and Leiber composed a number of popular songs for Elvis, including You’re So Square, Trouble, and Jailhouse Rock.

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