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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Ball and Chain - Big Mama Thornton with Buddy Guy


Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (December 11, 1926 – July 25, 1984) was an American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. She was the first to record the hit song "Hound Dog" in 1952. The song was #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks in 1953. The B-side was "They Call Me Big Mama," and the single sold almost two million copies. Three years later, Elvis Presley recorded his version, based on a version performed by Freddie Bell and the Bellboys. In a similar occurrence, she wrote and recorded "Ball 'n' Chain," which became a hit for her. In 1965 she performed with the American Folk Blues Festival package in Europe. While in England that year, she recorded Big Mama Thornton in Europe and followed it up the next year in San Francisco with Big Mama Thornton with the Chicago Blues Band. Both albums came out on the Arhoolie label. Thornton continued to record for Vanguard, Mercury, and other small labels in the 1970s and to work the blues festival circuit until her death in 1984, the same year she was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

During her career, she appeared on stages from New York City's Apollo Theater in 1952 to the Newport Jazz Festival in 1980, and was nominated for the Blues Music Awards six times. In addition to "Ball 'n' Chain" and "They Call Me Big Mama," Thornton wrote twenty other blues songs.

In the 1970s years of heavy drinking began to hurt Thornton's health. She was in a serious auto accident but recovered to perform at the 1983 Newport Jazz Festival with Muddy Waters, B.B. King, and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, a recording of which is called The Blues—A Real Summit Meeting on Buddha Records.

Thornton died of a heart attack in Los Angeles on July 25, 1984, at age 57.
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4 comments:

  1. Did you know Big Mama played harp? Check this line up:

    http://www.bmansbluesreport.com/2011/06/down-home-shakedown-big-mama-thornton_6069.html#comment-form

    ReplyDelete
  2. Check this impromptu interview with Muddy and Big Mama:

    http://www.bmansbluesreport.com/2011/05/cool-interview-with-muddy-waters-never_5192.html#links

    ReplyDelete