This song, with its original lyrics being a woman's telling off her no-good man, was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller for Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thorton. She recorded it in1953 and it hit #1 on the Billboard's R&B singles chart in the USA. Sam Phillips wrote "Bear Cat" an "answer song", which Rufus Thomas recorded for Sun Records on March 8, 1953. Freddie Bell and the Bellhops recorded a male-perspective version of "Hound Dog in 1955. Elvis saw them perform it in Las Vegas in 1956 and liked it enough to add it to his own live shows.
Elvis recorded "Hound Dog" on July 2, 1956 at RCA studios in New York - just a day after having sung it on the Steve Allen Show to a nervous female Basset hound. Recorded at the same session just prior to "Don't Be Cruel", all the same musicians were present, except that Shorty Long was late, so Gordon Stoker filled in on piano. The Jordanaires provided the background of clapping hands. It was hard to capture on record the vibrancy of Elvis' live performance of this song. It wasn't until take number 31 that Elvis was satisfied with it.
The single was shipped on July 13, 1956 as the other side of "Don't Be Cruel" and the two songs fought each other for position as the disc made its way up the charts. "Don't Be Cruel" made it to #1 on all three main Billboard singles charts: 11 weeks at #1 on the pop chart with a total of 28 weeks on the chart; #1 for 6 weeks on the R&B chart with a total of 14 weeks on the chart; and #1 on the country chart for 10 weeks with a total of 28 weeks on the chart. It peaked on the British pop singles chart at #2 and had a total of 23 weeks on the chart. In 1988 this recording was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Others who have recorded it are: Eric Clapton, Etta James, Tom Jones, Albert King, John Lennon, Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, Bryan Adams, Odetta, Jeff Beck and Carl Perkins. The song has been on the soundtracks of the films "Grease" (performed by Sha Na Na), "Forest Gump" and "Lilo & Stitch" (both performed by Elvis).