As depicted in Baz Luhrmann’s 2022 ELVIS movie, it was a legendary moment in music history on June 5, 1956 when Elvis appeared on The Milton Berle Show for the second time. He was singing his yet-to-be recorded future hit single “Hound Dog.”
Instead of ending the song at the appropriate verse, something came over Elvis and he extended the song, adding not one, but two slowed-down striptease-style verses.
According to drummer D.J. Fontana, he and the rest of Presley’s band did not know Elvis was going to do this. This had been the second time Elvis had performed without a guitar on national television.
Of the six appearances he made on The Dorsey Brothers’ Stage Show previously, he almost always had a guitar in front of him to hide or tone down his natural body movements. However, the more Elvis performed, the more he realized his natural dancing excited the girls in the crowd.
When Elvis started singing the seductive verses of “Hound Dog” on the Berle Show, even the audience was surprised, as evident by their mixture of faint screams and laughter.
So, you’d think that Elvis was the one who decided to end the song with this impromptu burlesque-style dance.
But surprise – it was not Elvis Presley’s idea!
[Note: This article is an excerpt from the book, ELVIS: Behind The Legend: Startling Truths About The King of Rock and Roll’s Life, Loves, Films and Music.
Read a free excerpt here: http://amzn.to/1grwhfd
Elvis had appeared on the show two months before on April 3 when the show was filmed from the USS Hancock aircraft carrier docked in San Diego.
On that appearance, Berle had Elvis participate in a skit where Berle pretended to be Elvis’ long-lost twin brother, “Melvin Presley”. Judging by the success of the skit from audience laughter, Berle had plans to create another humorous skit around Elvis for his second appearance.
During the June 5 appearance, right after Elvis finishes singing “Hound Dog”, Milton Berle comes out and, with the help of music from the band, tries to sing and move like Elvis, mimicking his dance movements in order to get laughs from the crowd.
This slapstick routine by Berle lasts 25 seconds and receives hilarious laughter from the audience. In total, the 4-minute skit, which later includes a special appearance by actress Debra Paget, focuses on Elvis’ appeal with women.
It seems that Presley’s exaggerated moves during “Hound Dog” were prompted by Milton Berle to enhance his comedy routine.
Photographer Alfred Wertheimer, who was taking pictures of Elvis that day, confirmed that “Milton Berle encouraged Elvis to bump and grind on the show.”
So there you have it- the answer is Milton Berle!
But why is this important, you may wonder?
This whole episode may have seemed harmless, but, in fact, it had just the opposite effect. The media went into an uproar after seeing Elvis’ gyrating on stage in an “obscene performance,” and the nickname “Elvis The Pelvis” took hold on a national level.
Steve Allen, who had scheduled Elvis to appear on his show the following month, expressed there was strong pressure to cancel Elvis’ appearance. If he did appear, Allen said, Presley would “not be allowed any of his offensive tactics.”
It seemed like a real setback for Presley’s career. However, Elvis returned to TV with a less threatening appearance in what Steve Allen jokingly called Presley’s “first comeback.”
Before Presley’s performance, Allen showed Elvis and the audience a petition sent in from a DJ in Tulsa, Oklahoma that was signed by over 18,000 fans saying they wanted to see Elvis again on TV.
On July 1, 1956, “the new Elvis Presley,” as he was introduced, performed on The Steve Allen Show in a tuxedo with tails to set things right with the older generation.
Elvis later expressed regret for his participation in singing “Hound Dog” to a Basset Hound on Allen’s show, but at least for the time being, he had calmed his critics.
This story just goes to show that when it comes to Elvis Presley history, you can’t just accept what is told on the surface – there’s always a story behind the story! You have to dig deeper to find out the truth.
That is what I have done in my book, ELVIS Behind The Legend, where you can find out many more fascinating stories about Elvis Presley’s life, loves, films and music.
Read a free excerpt here: http://amzn.to/1grwhfd
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4 thoughts on “Who told Elvis Presley to bump and grind for Hound Dog?”
Elvis bumped and grinded all the time the audience got bigger the more wiled and evils asked his band why now the affect they told him to swing his hips more and with the big smart peg pants moved a whole lot more
Why are people saying Elvis stole from black folks when it was the environment he grew up in that he assimilated. What about Michael Jackson? He was so infatuated with Elvis Presley that he ended up marrying Lisa Marie Presley in order to have children that carried the blood line of Elvis. Not only that, but Michael Jackson stole Elvis’ moves! Look at Elvis on his tippy toes in Jailhouse Rock and years later you find the Prince of Pop recreating that exact move! Elvis blurred the racial lines between blacks and whites and Michael Jackson continued in his footsteps years later!
Hi i watched the mover and glad it got fans and none fans interested in Elvis but for me a long time fan not much Elvis but more on parker and other artist i feel the Kurt Russel version is still the better of the two
I have Scotty Moore’s book and in it he talked about Elvis wondering what the heck the girls were screaming about. I know all these shows, The Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, Steve Allen, and Ed Sullivan give us a glimpse into Elvis’ early years, as they are all the original televised shows Elvis went on in the 1950’s. Thankful we still have these films, but Baz Luhrmann took liberties with the ELVIS movie instead of holding to the facts. Nothing new in Hollywood, as even “The Ten Commandments” had things not in The Bible. Nonetheless, true Elvis fans are glad to see a renewal of appreciation towards Elvis Presley for the contributions he made. Because, if it wasn’t for Elvis a lot of entertainers would never have made it and been as big as they are today. That goes for The Beatles, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, etc. And if you don’t believe me…Listen to John Lennon, “Nothing affected me until I heard Elvis. Without Elvis, there would be no Beatles.”