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Not His Dog

One of the songs most associated with Elvis was not his own

The path between the jazz and rhythm and blues styles of the 1940s and the rock styles of the early sixties were bridged by rock and roll, which retrospectively sounds like light rock in comparison to some of the heavier genres today like symphonic metal which have transitioned the journey from being outliers into the mainstream. Rock and roll featured elements such as a fast tempo, seventh chords and a structure known as twelve-bar blues, where, eight of those twelve were the key chord the music was written in, while the other four chords provided brief deviations from an otherwise strongly tonic-centered music.

One of the songs most associated with the rock and roll movement was "Rock around the clock" by Bill Haley and the Comets. With its driving beat and syncopated rhythms, the song went on to become one of the most iconic pieces of music and helped spread the popularity of the then-emerging style. The hard driving rhythms are the earlier antithesis to the soft metal sounds of later 1970s bands such as Poison, and it is unlikely that Bill Haley would have approved of the latter!

If there ever was a singer that could be said to be representative of the rock and roll style, it would most likely be Elvis Presley. Elvis gave us many hit songs such as "All Shook Up", and among the ones he is well-known for is the catchy "Hound Dog". Elvis chastises, "You ain't nothing but a hound dog, crying all the time" and while the song is so often associated with the king of rockabilly, it may come as a surprise to know his was a cover version. Like many cover versions, good songs remain latent until someone well-known comes along and gives it the Midas touch. The original Hound Dog had been performed four years earlier by the rhythm and blues singer Ellie Mae Thornton. The lyrics to her original were rewritten by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys, including the now familiar "Cryin' all the time", which had never been on the original, and Elvis liked the song so much he added it to his repertoire.

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