“Hound Dog,” Take One: Big Mama Thornton
Chapter Three: “Hound Dog,” Take One: Big Mama Thornton. Big Mama Thornton, Black Alabama blues singer of what we these days call female masculinity, recorded “Hound Dog,” written by white Jewish songwriters, with a band led by a Greek-American who considered himself Black, for release on a Black-owned record label whose boss took the profits. This chapter considers the idea that Thornton nonetheless authored “Hound Dog”; her performance style inflected it, not through raw power but as literary, auteurist musicking. The challenge is to see in Thornton's rocking a model for Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley, too; for later Thornton coverer Janis Joplin; and most recently for Doja Cat, whose “Vegas” in the film Elvis has Thornton sampled in the background, proving once again that there is no Elvis without her.