BIG MAMA THORNTON:
Blues singer Big Mama Thornton (pictured above) was no joke! She was one of the few black artists during the 50's who wasn't cheated out of her royalties although she was cheated out of-receiving song credit. White male music executives were terrified of Thornton and she was known to allegedly carry a pistol in her handbag with a pint of booze.
Big Mama wasn't on a royalty schedule like other artists. When she needed money, allegedly, she was known to strut in the record company and demand, "Motherf**kers, where is my money?" Personnel would scramble and get Big Mama her royalty check, they didn't like to keep her waiting.
Thornton's signature song was "Hound Dog," later recorded by Elvis Presley. Thornton always claimed she wrote the song, although she never received credit. She was incensed when Presley's version eclipsed her version. She was so mad, she allegedly threatened to whoop his ass, the next time she saw him.
Once, when Big Mama suspected a white executive of cheating her (he was new and not aware of her temper) she took her purse and swung it from left to right, upside his head. He pleaded for her to stop. She stopped when accounting rushed in and gave her a check. Other executives pleaded with her to calm down.
When Thornton left, she went to hang out with her homies at the local bar. She loved to drink and talk smack. She was a colorful character. Even the police kept their distance.
Thornton's name gained wider prominence and her career enjoyed a significant resurgence when Janis Joplin covered her song, "Ball and Chain," making it a regular number in her repertoire.
Years of hard drinking and living began to take their toll.
Sadly, she died in 1984, in Los Angeles, of natural causes. Johnny Otis conducted her funeral services and she was laid to rest in Inglewood Park Cemetery.
Recently, I sat down to talk to one of my Aunts about Big Mama Thornton since she lived in the same neighborhood as Thornton, at one time. I asked her, how on earth did Big Mama Thornton get away with so much being a black woman in the South?
She told me, "It was rumored that one of the potbellied, redneck cops turned a blind eye to Big Mama's behavior because he loved Big Mama's pies and cakes."
After every altercation, white people would call this cop and complain about Big Mama, and he would tell them, "Let her be, Big Mama don't mean no harm to anybody."
When Big Mama heard this cop pulling up to her house, she would take one of her pies out to him. He would salvitate while looking at the pie and dig in with his bare hands. Between bite full's, he would tell Big Mama to tone it down. By the time he left, pie stains covered his front shirt.
Although he was racist with the exception of Big Mama, when people stopped him in the street to complain about Big Mama, he would ask, "Are you racist? She ain't a bad person, leave her alone, that woman is a living blues legend."
When others saw the pie stains on his shirt, they didn't bother to complain because they knew he had been paid off with a pie.
They had a routine, Big Mama would curse and swing her purse, drink her liquor and flash her gun when she wasn't recording but as long as she baked those pies and cakes, she had free rein."
Big Mama was the Remy Ma of her era.