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(Ball & Chain) The Musical Story of Big Mama Thornton

Broadcast: February 26, 2023 at 4:00 p.m.

Listen to this episode: Click here.

Willie Mae "Big Momma" Thornton was a Blues singer, musician and songwriter. She had a short life and is best known for the songs "Hound Dog" and "Ball 'n' Chain". The songs were hits for her, but became mega hits later for Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin. This one hour program is a short look at her musical life story.

Big Mama Thornton (not to be confused with Big Maybelle ) was a unique Blues singer, drummer and harmonica player. She was born in Alabama and left home at age 14 to work on traveling shows and eventually settled in Houston, Texas during the late 1940’s. Her first release and hit was “Hound Dog ” recorded in 1951 at Houston under the leadership of band leader Johnny Otis . Her career would not blossom again until the mid and late 1960’s. She continued to record until the late 1970’s and she died at the age of 57 in 1984.

This program includes some of the studio records of Big Mama Thornton as well as some of her exciting live performances. Including here is segments from the historic show with the Muddy Waters Blues Band as well as her live performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.