Big Mamma Thornton is the Blues

big_mama_5It is not often that I run across a blues musician with a big voice, big talent, and  a vibrant strong stage presence. While searching YouTube for juke joint music from the Delta I came across Big Mamma Thornton and fell in love with her sound. The first note that came from her went deep into my soul calling to the  “black-women-hardships-blues-sistah” in me. I could feel the dirt roads of Alabama, the deep woods of the southern hills, old gospel mountain churches, and the sounds of backs cracking from the weight of sharecropped cotton. Her music touched the negro in me that was still aching to sing the blues of the south through the cornbread vocals of our appointed messenger from our broken people. She lived,sang and created, and walked out in her life, the blues.

 imagesCA3SO61DWillie Mae “Big Mamma” Thornton was born in Ariton, Alabama in 1926. The daughter of a minister. She grew up in and  around gospel music. She began singing at the age of six. From Montgomery, Alabama to Houston Texas, to San Francisco, California, where she settled her music became her life and a gift to the world. She played with all  the greats: Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Johnny Lee Hooker, and Dr. Ross to name a few.  She is a blues legend. Her famous  song Hounddog was sung by Jill Scott in the 2007 movie Hound Dog. I didn’t like the movie that much, but the music by Jill Scott stole the movie in my opinion. The song was stolen by other artists whose names I won’t mention. Big Mamma Thornton first recorded it in 1952. She was a songwriter and a great self taught  musician. 


 big-mama-thornton-hound-dogHer round vibrant voice and bold  harmonica style captivates your ears on every note. Her voice is full from the soul up. Hearing her sing brings your life to attention. She is a story teller with words and deep emotions. I have not found a  female blues vocalist yet that I can honestly say can match her authoritative  brassy, bold style. I am still looking. When I listen to her music I feel as if her songs are things I wish I could  say If I could sing the blues. She died of a heart attack in 1984, but her music lives on. That is the framework of being a legend in my eyes. Check out  the videos of her performances. Turn up the volume , lean back, and listen with your soul. She will awake a truth in you that comes from a life that was steeped in  blues and hard living. Big  Mamma Thornton is that aunt we all have had in our lives, who tells it like it is. She is the queen of blues! She sang the gospel! Big Mamma Thornton gave us all she had and more.







220px-Thornton_Big_Mama_01Ball ‘n’ Chain – Big Mama Thornton

“All around I felt it, all I could see was the rain. Something grabbed a hold of me, honey felt to me honey like, lord, a ball and chain.”




And…. if you have time a blues treat!


5 thoughts on “Big Mamma Thornton is the Blues

  1. I happened on BMT last year when I was looking for blues music to dance to. Being a big woman who likes to sing and who has a love of wearing hats, Miss Thorton is an inspiration for me. Indeed I have decided to finally, after 41 years, to pursue singing more seriously.

    Anyway, Janie here are some links to sites of interest on the representation of Black women in photography and art (I could not find an email for you so forgive me for posting them here):


    • Thanks for the links. I have friend that sing now , she started late and her voice is amazing! Sabrina Tutstone, Check her out on facebook! Sing and use what God has given you! It is not too late! You can do all things through Him that strenghtens you! Make it do what it do! This is your year!
      God bless! J


  2. Pingback: Index of /Music/Blues | Lilywhitewash's Blog

    • Thanks for the add on! Love you site! You speak from the heart…. and I know are healing others! God bless J


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