Dec. 11, 1919
Blues singer and songwriter Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton was born in Montgomery. An African-American, Thornton transcended conventional roles to create a persona and musical style characterized by her deep, powerful voice and risqué songs and performances. In 1952, she became the first musical artist to record the song “Hound Dog,” selling more than 2 million copies and hitting No. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart, where it stayed for seven weeks. In 1968, she released her original “Ball and Chain,” a song later popularized by Janis Joplin, who often cited Thornton as a musical influence. Thornton was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.
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