“Facts are interesting. The accidents, the stumbles, and the chance encounters that lead people to do certain things, or meet certain people, or encounter cultural artifacts: those are fascinating. How records come to be made. Like, the discovery that Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were part of this interracial communist commune in L.A. in the early fifties! They’re out there on the streets distributing pamphlets and working at Lockheed in order to convert the workers. And this is where The Coasters and “Hound Dog” come from! But the really great story is that Willie Mae Thornton’s version of “Hound Dog” gets to Number One on the R&B charts, in 1951 I think, and Leiber and Stoller go back to the commune to tell everybody about how great this is. There’s a party going on and they tell everyone that their record got to Number One. Immediately the party turns into this self-criticism session where everyone is sitting around lambasting Leiber and Stoller for engaging in commodity fetishism and selling the masses bread and circuses when they ought to be focusing on conditions of exploitation. They have betrayed the group and there is going to have to be a judgment on whether or not they’re fit to remain. And Leiber and Stoller realize, maybe this isn’t the place for us, because they don’t understand how great it is to have written this wonderful song and gotten Willie Mae Thornton to record it and then it gets to be Number One.”
- Greil Marcus. #1 R&B song for 7 weeks; later covered by Elvis Presley in 1956.