"Big Mama" Thornton
Hound Dog - The Peacock RecordingsLabel: MCA Records (originally on Peacock Records)
Genre: Blues, Jump Blues, R&B
This is a collection of songs recordings between 1952 and 1957 on Peacock Records. Willie Mae Thornton spent most of the 1950s touring, rather than recording. I don't know exactly how extensive her recordings were during this period, but I believe this compilation is the bulk of her material on that label. Most of these recordings are made under the direction of Johnny Otis, another big name in the blues of the 50s. Most of the hits from this era are on the R&B charts as Blues itself was in sever decline as Rock 'N' Roll was on the rise, and explains the larger number of Jump Blues with a swing-rock rhythm rather that straight blues heard in the 1940s.
We start off with the 1952 recording of Hound Dog, this is the first time this song is recorded and immediately went to #1 in the R&B charts in 1953 upon release. It would also be the source of a lot of her woes with the music business, as she lost a lawsuit over who wrote the song and should be awarded royalties from the many covers. Ironically the now more famous version by Elvis was the b-side to his Don't Be Cruel single in 1956 - not an a-side, and did not hit #1 immediately.
Most of the songs are from her early 1952 session with the label, which produced the bulk of her singles that were released from 1953 to 1955. She had shorter sessions in 1953, '54, '55 and one final session in 1958 before leaving Peacock (she did continue to record for other labels). Most of the songs had also been unavailable in the U.S. on albums since their original run as singles. Which makes this a good collection for Blues fans, and doubly so for Big Mama fans not keen on finding all the original 45s.
Her voice is deep, throaty, and very blues. Even on her more rock-style songs she keeps the blues feel. She isn't always big and loud, as demonstrated on Walking Blues and The Big Change. From different sessions it shows her ability to move back and forth, she didn't stick to one style during any given period and moved freely through R&B and Blues.