‘You ain’t nothin’ but a…’ UNG prof pens book about one of Elvis’ biggest hits

Dr. Ben Wynne, a professor of history at the University of North Georgia (UNG), has published a book through Louisiana State University Press about the story behind Elvis Presley’s iconic hit “Hound Dog.”  

“A Hound Dog Tale: Big Mama, Elvis, and the Song That Changed Everything” was released Feb. 7.   

Wynne’s book outlines how Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton first had a rhythm-and-blues hit with “Hound Dog” before Freddie Bell and the Bellboys rewrote much of the song to include it in their lounge performances at the Sands Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas. Wynne said Presley walked into the lounge one day, heard the song and decided it would provide the perfect comic relief in his rock-and-roll shows.  

Wynne pointed to Presley’s sexually suggestive performances of “Hound Dog” on network television during the 1950s as a tipping point that transformed the singer from a popular rock ‘n’ roll performer into a global superstar. 

“It seems like a simple song on the surface,” Wynne said. “But it’s got a pretty complicated backstory.”