Elvis Presley’s Songwriter Mike Stoller Gives His Thoughts on the New ‘Elvis’ Biopic

by Samantha Whidden

Just a few weeks after the release of the hit biopic “Elvis,” Elvis Presley’s songwriter Mike Stoller reveals his thoughts on the film. Stoller is known for his work on Jerry Leiber’s lyrics to “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Trouble,” “Treat Me Nice,” “Love Me,” and “Loving You.”

While chatting with Variety, Stoller says that Elvis Presley’s former wife, Priscilla invited him to a private screening of the film. “It’s a very strong film,” Stoller said. “I really like the movie. The kid who plays Elvis, Austin Butler, is a knockout as an actor, a dancer, and a singer.”

Stoller said he has a feeling that Butler will be receiving a best actor nomination in the future. “I was very happy with the way my songs were used. There’s about three different uses of ‘Hound Dog,’ including the original Big Mama Thorton version, and of course, there’s some ‘Jailhouse Rock’ in there. I thought the way they used the song ‘Trouble’ was very effective.”

Also speaking about the film’s focus on Elvis Presley’s manager, Colonel Parker, Stoller recalled, “It had a line for our signatures. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I’ll fill it in later!’”

Mike Stoller Talks Elvis Presley’s Version of ‘Hound Dog’ 

Also speaking about Elvis Presley’s version of his hit track “Hound Dog,” Mike Stoller said that it was a different kind of song after Presley’s growling. 

“I mean, Big Mama’s song was a woman singing it to a no-good guy,” Stoller shared. “And the original lyric in the first verse was, ‘You can wag your tail, but I ain’t gonna feed you no more.’ And the Presley version almost sounds like he’s singing it to a dog: ‘You ain’t never caught a rabbit, and you ain’t no friend of mine.’ I don’t know where that came from.”

When asked if he preferred Big Mama’s version of Presley’s, Stoller answered, “I mean, if you’ve heard Big Mama’s record and the rhythm and the whole structure of the music, as compared to this kind of rockabilly [he claps out the differences in the two versions’ rhythms]… But as I’ve said: After it sold 7 million singles, I began to see some merit in it.”

Elvis Presley’s version notably became a smash hit while Stoller was overseas. When he came back, Jerry Leiber told him the song became a smash hit. “He said, ‘Hound Dog.’ I said [incredulously], ‘Big Mama Thornton?’ He said, ‘No, some white kid named Elvis Presley.’ And that’s how I heard about Elvis.”

Stoller then added that he really got to appreciate Elvis over the years. “He was a fabulous singer, fabulous performer, and very special… And he’s very hot, again, still. I didn’t like ‘Hound Dog,’ but I loved the way he did our other songs. And we got to demonstrate the others for him.”