On July 1st 1956 Elvis appeared on NBC-TV’s The Steve Allen Show and performed “Hound Dog” – to a live Basset hound dog. After the show, Elvis, having appeared wearing a black tuxedo outfit (complete with a top hat, white tie, and tails), was by all accounts sanguine about the appearance at the time, but his band were incensed, and the Presley camp vowed never do the show again. Indeed, in later years, when asked about this appearance, Elvis said “It was the most ridiculous appearance I ever did and I regret ever doing it”.
A viewing of the footage nowadays reveals that Elvis, like the true professional he was, pulls off the sketch with ease: he hams it up, playing and singing to the dog, which he even appears to kiss at one point.
The morning after the Steve Allen Show performance, Elvis’ studio version was recorded by Elvis with his regular band (Scotty Moore on lead guitar, Bill Black on bass, D. J. Fontana on drums, backing vocals from the Jordanaires, and Elvis on rhythm guitar). Elvis produced the session himself, insisting on getting the song exactly right, and eventually recording 31 takes. ‘Hound Dog’ was initially released as the B-side to ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ on July 13, but both sides topped the charts independently, a rare feat, at the same time topping all three Billboard charts: pop, country & western, and rhythm & blues, the first record in history to do so.
Ironically, over the years, the small ceramic statue of a Basset Hound with a top hat is now among the more popular items of Presley memorabilia sold at Graceland to fans from around the world. (“I said you was high-class, but that was just a lie..”)
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