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A Hound Dog Tale: Big Mama, Elvis, and the Song That Changed Everything book by Ben Wynne (hardcover)

The release of the song “Hound Dog” in 1953 marked a turning point in American popular culture, and throughout its history, the hit ballad bridged divides of race, gender, and generational conflict. Ben Wynne’s A Hound Dog Tale discusses the stars who made this rock ’n’ roll standard famous, from Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton to Elvis Presley, along with an eclectic cast of characters, including singers, songwriters, musicians, record producers and managers, famous television hosts, several lawyers, and even a gangster or two.

Wynne’s examination of this American classic reveals how “Hound Dog” reflected the values and issues of 1950s American society, and sheds light on the lesser-known elements of the song’s creation and legacy. A Hound Dog Tale will capture the imagination of anyone who has ever tapped a foot to the growl of a blues riff or the bark of a rock ’n’ roll guitar.


“This well-written book offers a glimpse into the tangled world of early rock ’n’ roll and those who were part of the perfect storm that produced the song ‘Hound Dog.’ Ben Wynne addresses the complicated matter of cultural appropriation by white artists using African American musical forms, and he shows how the young Jewish songwriters who penned the lyrics add an intriguing factor that is typical of a hybrid American culture. A Hound Dog Tale is for fans of the music but also for anyone interested in American society at a galvanizing musical moment.” -- Charles Reagan Wilson, author of Judgment and Grace in Dixie: Southern Faiths from Faulkner to Elvis

“[This book is] very well-researched. Wynne tells us the saga of ‘Hound Dog’ and, in doing so, contributes to the fact that Big Mama Thornton’s role in this story deservedly shines again in the public eye.” -- Michael Spörke, author of Big Mama Thornton: The Life and Music

“Music historian Wynne scrupulously documents how Elvis’s 1956 hit song ‘Hound Dog’ helped catapult rock ’n’ roll ‘into the American cultural mainstream.’ . . . Exhaustively researched and energetically written, this is a colorful study of rock’s complicated beginnings.” -- Publishers Weekly


Ben Wynne is professor of history at the University of North Georgia and author of In Tune: Charley Patton, Jimmie Rodgers, and the Roots of American Music.

A Hound Dog Tale: Big Mama, Elvis, and the Song That Changed Everything book

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