WATCH: Elvis Presley Performs ‘Hound Dog’ to Basset Hound in a Top Hat on 1956 TV Show

by Emily Morgan
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Even though fans remember Elvis Presley for his style, singing, and swinging hips, he was not immune to his fair share of embarrassment. There was one moment in his career that he referred to as one of the most embarrassing moments. 

In 1956, as Elvis began his ascent to stardom, he went on a press circuit, appearing on TV shows and radio broadcasts to promote his new single. That year, he released his debut single, “Heartbreak Hotel,” which would become a No. 1 hit in the US.

In addition, Elvis also made his film debut in the fall of that same year. He starred in Love Me Tender, making himself into a star on and off the screen. Yet, there was one moment that always made The King wince whenever he thought about it. 

Presley made an appearance on NBC’s “The Steve Allen Show,” but he wasn’t in his usual, laid-back garb this time. For this appearance, he opted for a top hat, bow tie, with a black tailcoat.

The host of the show, Steve Allen, wanted to introduce “a new Elvis” to the world. According to a TV historian, the host did not appreciate the up-and-coming rock-n-roll music and thought Presley was “talentless and absurd.” After Elvis Presley appeared in the bizarre outfit, it got even weirder. Allen then requested he sings “Hound Dog” to an actual basset hound for less than a minute on stage.

The Legacy of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’

However, if Allen was hoping to impact his career negatively, he was sorely mistaken. Rolling Stone named the tune one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and the single hit No. 1 the same year.

Even though the song would go on to define his career, Elvis Presley would never forget that moment. “It was the most ridiculous appearance I ever did and I regret ever doing it,” he once said of the experience. 

In the years following, “Hound Dog” has been recorded more than 250 times— with Elvis’ version being the best-known. His version sold about 10 million copies globally. 

Meanwhile, it also claimed the No. 1 spot on the US pop, country, and R&B charts in 1956, and it topped the pop chart for 11 weeks — a record that stood for nearly 40 years. In 1988, the Grammys inducted his RCA recording into their Hall of Fame. Today, it’s listed as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s “500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll”.

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