Movie Reviews

The Writer of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’ Survived a Shipwreck

The shipwreck of the 'SS Andrea Doria'


One of the survivors of the ‘SS Andrea Doria’ shipwreck co-wrote Elvis Presley’s “Hound Dog,” “Love Me,” and “Bossa Nova Baby.”

The sinking of the SS Andrea Doria remains one of the most infamous shipwrecks of the 20th century. One of the survivors of the disaster co-wrote Elvis Presley‘s “Hound Dog” and other hit songs. During an interview, the songwriter said he received major news about the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll after surviving the shipwreck and making it back to land.

The writer of Elvis Presley’s ‘Hound Dog’ went on an infamous boast after getting paid

Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller were one of the most influential songwriting duos from the 1950s. They are probably most known for writing Elvis songs such as “Bossa Nova Baby,” “Love Me,” and “Hound Dog.” They also wrote tunes for The Coasters, The Drifters, and Ben E. King.

During a 2020 interview with Elvis Australia, Stoller discussed why he was on the SS Andrea Doria. “The first time I got a sizable royalty check was in 1956, and it was $5,000,” he said. “I thought I’d never see that much money at the same time again. And I went to Europe for three months and came back in style ’cause $5,000 took you a long way in those days, especially in Europe. My first wife and I came back on an Italian ocean liner, the Andrea Doria.”

Mike Stoller didn’t know who Elvis Presley was until after he survived the shipwreck

Stoller discussed the tragedy of the voyage. “We almost made it to New York,” he said. “The Stockholm ran into the Andrea Doria. There were a lot of people killed, not as many as there could have been, fortunately. But there were over 50 people who were killed. 

“The boat sank,” he said. “We climbed down a Jacob’s ladder swinging wildly over a broken lifeboat, which we got into. We couldn’t steer the boat because the rudder was broken.” Afterward, Stoller made it to New York, where Leiber was waiting for him. Then, Leiber informed Stoller that Elvis had covered their song “Hound Dog.” Stoller didn’t even know who Elvis was when he heard the news!

How ‘Hound Dog’ and ‘Don’t Be Cruel’ performed on the pop charts together

The Billboard Book of Number 1 Hits says “Hound Dog” was released as a double A-side single with “Don’t Be Cruel.” The tunes were No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 for 11 weeks. The Billboard Top 100 was the predecessor to the Billboard Hot 100. Since then, “Hound Dog” has appeared in numerous hit movies, such as Baz Luhrmann’s Elvis and Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.

“Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be Cruel” both appeared on the compilation album Elvis: 30 #1 Hits. That record topped the Billboard 200 for three weeks and stayed on the chart for 169 weeks. While it doesn’t have all of the best songs from his early days, Elvis: 30 #1 Hits is probably the best catalog of Elvis as a hitmaker.

“Hound Dog” is a great song even if Stoller almost didn’t like to hear Elvis’ version of it.