BIG MAMA THORNTON, American singer born (d. 1984) An American Texas Blues, R&B singer and songwriter. She was the original singer to record the hit song “Hound Dog” in 1952. The song was #1 on the Billboard R&B charts for seven weeks. The B-side was “They Call Me Big Mama,” and the single sold almost two million copies
In the 1950s female singers such as Ruth Brown, Koko Taylor, Dinah Washington, and Big Mama Thornton revived the tradition of the remarkably gutsy, pioneering female performers. Thornton, a powerful performer who frequently dressed in masculine clothing, released “Hound Dog” in 1953, three years before Elvis Presley’s rendition. In a similar occurrence, she wrote and recorded “Ball n’ Chain,” which became a hit for her. Janis Joplin, a rock and roll singer from Texas, later recorded “Ball and Chain,” and it became a huge success in the late 1960s.