Rock & roll forerunner Freddie Bell exerted a profound influence on the young Elvis Presley -- not only did Bell's energetic Las Vegas act shape The King's own larger-than-life stage persona, but Presley also lifted his rendition of the raucous Big Mama Thornton classic "Hound Dog" almost note-for-note, notching a landmark single in the process. Born Ferdinando Dominick Bello in Philadelphia on July 29, 1931, Bell studied trombone, bass, and drums as a teen, and made his professional debut in support of saxophonist Eddie Ventura. At age 20, he formed his own group, the Bellboys, with pianist Russ Conti, guitarist Frank Brent, trumpeter Jerry Mayo, saxophonist Jack Kane, and drummer Chick Keeney, together they honed a jump blues-inspired sound heavily indebted to Louis Jordan. After spending six months touring the Midwest, Bell and the Bellboys landed an extended residency at the Las Vegas casino The Sands. Following the commercial success of the like-minded Bill Haley & the Comets, Bell and the Bellboys signed to Mercury and in 1956 issued their debut single "Big Bad Wolf." While the record was a minor hit at best, the relative scarcity of white rock & roll acts was enough to secure the group a spot in producer Sam Katzman's quickie feature Rock Around the Clock, which co-starred Haley & the Comets as well as R&B immortals the Platters. The film proved a blockbuster on both sides of the Atlantic, with Bell's performance of the novelty tune "Giddy-Up-a-Ding-Dong" enough to push the accompanying single into the British Top Five later that year.