Whatever it means to be marketable has been the constant hurdle for many a musician.
These days, it seems you have to have an entire dance routine or some sort of theatrical gimmick to land in the lap of Barbara Walters or be featured on the Grammys. Although I was very happy to see Mumford and Sons and the Avett Brothers perform this year along with a very aged Bob Dylan. It's proof positive that some folks still care about the music and not the show.
This Mothers Day, I would like to pay tribute to the ultimate mother, Big Mama Thornton.
Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton was born on December 11 in 1926 and in my opinion, gave the keys of rock and roll to Elvis Presley himself.
In 1952, she recorded a hit song in the Rhythm and Blues world selling two million copies and the name of the song would be "Hound Dog". It would be three years later when Elvis would pick up the song, record it and the rest, as they say, is history. The blues would now become the very backbone that provided the foundation for early rock and roll shooting Elvis to stardom.
Big Mama had more than one set of keys though. In the late 1960s, she would dig down in her pockets and hand over yet another song to Janis Joplin titled "Ball "'n' Chain" which skyrocketed for the late Port Arthur, Texas girl.
Big Mama's introduction to music started in Montgomery, Alabama at the Baptist Church where her father was a minister. She had six siblings who all began singing at early ages within the church.
Thornton would leave Alabama at the age of 14 and join the Sammy Green's Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue which lasted for seven years. In 1948, she would settle in Houston, Texas where she joined Peacock Records in 1951. While working with Johnny Otis, she recorded "Hound Dog" and it went straight to number one on the R&B charts giving her instant fame within the black community.
When soul began to evolve in the 1960s, her career would begin to fade away like so many other blues artists. She would move to San Francisco where she played mostly local blues clubs until her death in 1984.
Big Mama Thornton was an American icon and truly deserves the recognition of helping create and launch one of the largest music movements in the world. She was indeed the mother of rock and roll and has had many children. Children that have carried her torch on the stages of the world for over sixty years.
Happy Mothers Day Big Mama!