On this day in Alabama history: Willie Mae Thornton was born in Montgomery

On this day in Alabama history: Willie Mae Thornton was born in Montgomery
Montgomery native Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (1926-1984) was an influential blues singer and songwriter from the 1940s through the 1980s. She performed the first version of "Hound Dog" (later sung by Elvis Presley) and recorded with such blues greats as Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. (From Encyclopedia of Alabama, courtesy of Alabama Music Hall of Fame)

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.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

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