Big Mama Thornton

Not in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame

Eligible since: 1976 (The 1977 Induction Ceremony)

Previously Considered? No  what's this?

Inducted into Rock Hall Revisited in 2000 (ranked #32 in the Influences - Pre-Rock Era category) .

Essential Songs (?)WikipediaAmazon MP3YouTube
Hound Dog (1952)

Big Mama Thornton @ Wikipedia

Big Mama Thornton Videos

Will Big Mama Thornton be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame?
"Musical excellence is the essential qualification for induction."


15 comments so far (post your own)

Big Mama Thornton was a blues singer in the grand tradition of Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and Memphis Minnie who combined enough rhythm and blues into her singing to set her audiences on fire and hit two home runs that would change rock and roll. The first one would be Leiber & Stoller's first hit, "Hound Dog", that Elvis Presley would avidly study (Guralnik, Last Train to Memphis, pg 195 and 273) and even had his cracked copy of the single tape recorded in Jan 1968 (Guralnik, Careless Love, pg 285). He wouldn't record it until he heard Freddie Bell's version, figuring out how a man could get away singing a line like "quit snooping around my back door", but Elvis, already familiar with the song, took it from there. The song would assure the King of Rock & Roll his crown for decades to come. The second was a song she wrote, "Ball and Chain". Janis Joplin heard her perform it live, and it became the knockout track of a knockout album, Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & the Holding Company, and its a small exaggeration to say the song would propel Joplin into superstardom. Big Mama Thornton herself would record the song as the centerpiece of a superb album, Ball 'N Chain on Arhoolie records. Aside from Joplin and Presley, Thornton is often cited as an influence on Etta James and Koko Taylor and succeeding blues musicians, not to mention all the remakes of these two seminal songs. Let's face it, rock would have been very different if it weren't for Big Mama Thornton, and it's incredible she hasn't yet been inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Posted by Charles Crossley Jr on Monday, 01.15.07 @ 09:39am

Sounds like a perfect candidate for the "Early Influence" category. If she hasn't been nominated in the "Performer" category yet, it probably will never happen.

Posted by c.w. on Monday, 01.15.07 @ 11:46am

Shouldn't be an "early influence", because "Hound Dog" hit #1 on the R&B chart in 1951, just as rock & roll got started, and she is a contemporary other Hall of Famers who released their first national recordings at that time, such as Ray Charles (1951), Fats Domino (1949), Little Richard (1951), the Coasters (1950), Bill Haley (1950, not counting one he recorded as a kid in 1943), B.B. King (1951), Big Joe Turner (1951), Muddy Waters (1948), John Lee Hooker (1948), Ike Turner (1951 or earlier), Ruth Brown (1948) and Miles Davis (1945). There's no need to list her contemporaries when she began singing "Ball And Chain" in the mid-60s. She was also contemporary to acts who have been previously nominated but not yet inducted, such as Esther Phillips (a.k.a. Little Esther), Johnny Ace and Chuck Willis, all of which were part of Johnny Otis' Revue at one time or another. The R&B artists that Otis discovered that influenced rock & roll are woefully underrepresented in the Hall, and it's sad that Phillips, Ace and Willis have not been re-nominated, and that Thornton and Junior Parker have never been nominated. But getting back to your assertion, no, based on the rhythm & blues inflections in her blues and her being a contemporary to so many performer nominees during both of her heydays, again, no, she should NOT be inducted as an early influence, but as a performer.

Someone may say, well, Howlin' Wolf and Dinah Washington were inducted as early influences. My response is that I'm hardly the first one to say that both of those were mistakes, and I should point out that to be consistent, the Hall would have to redesignate all the performers I just listed as early influences. Don't use two wrongs as a precedent. Just get it right the next time.

As for your assertion that "if she hasn't been nominated in the "Performer" category yet, it probably will never happen", well, I hear ya. But never say never. Who'd have thought the Righteous Brothers, Miles Davis or the Ronettes would ever be nominated after all these years, let alone inducted in 2005, 2006 and 2007 respectively. These are the years of catching up, with the exception of this coming round of nominations of course, where Madonna, Metallica, the Beastie Boys, Sonic Youth, Sting and Janet Jackson lead a field of notable artists newly eligible. In the succeeding years, you will see many of the long ignored artists being nominated for the first time. And the way they're going to be recognized is if the fans, the critics and the artists start speaking up asking, "Hey, you forgot Big Mama Thornton," and see if the nominators agree.

And that's what I'm doing.

Posted by Charles Crossley Jr on Monday, 01.15.07 @ 13:04pm

it's about time to induct her

Posted by akeem on Tuesday, 12.30.08 @ 03:27am

it's about time to induct her

Posted by akeem on Tuesday, 12.30.08 @ 03:27am

I agee another 1 of a kind..!!!

Posted by mrxyz on Tuesday, 12.30.08 @ 21:13pm

wake up RRHOF!!! it's about time to induct this great artist, shame on you, you didn't even consider her even once

Posted by akeem on Tuesday, 12.30.08 @ 21:17pm

Big Mama Thornton screams Early Influence

Posted by Keebord on Wednesday, 07.8.09 @ 17:27pm

"Big Mama Thornton screams Early Influence."-Keebord

I agree EI category.

Posted by Dude Man on Wednesday, 07.8.09 @ 20:33pm

"Big Mama Thornton screams Early Influence."-Keebord

I agree EI category.

Posted by Dude Man on Wednesday, 07.8.09 @ 20:33pm

I'd rather have her in the Performer's category.

Posted by akeem on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 01:22am

Onl5 105 votes as of now WOW ??!! I would have her in way before most in the HALL

Posted by mrxyz on Tuesday, 08.18.09 @ 15:28pm

I'd rather have her in the Performer's category.

Posted by akeem on Thursday, 07.9.09 @ 01:22am

Since "Hound Dog" came out in 1952 (Pre-1954), they'll probably put her in as an Early Influence, if they put her in at all which they absolutely should.

Posted by Tahvo Parvianen on Friday, 03.11.11 @ 05:15am

You would think that Big Mama Thornton would already be enshrined in the Hall considering much they love blues, but nope, she is still on the outside looking in.

The original version of Ball 'n' Chain oozes soul and emotion, both in Thornton's vocals and in the instruments (especially Buddy Guy's guitar licks and Eddie Boyd's organ playing) Janis Joplin completely mutilated that song with her screechy caterwauling.

Big Mama Thornton's original version of Hound Dog is imbued with a sense of anger not found in most other versions. Elvis Presley's and Little Richard's covers are both terrific in their own right and come the closest to retaining the spirit of the original by Thornton (I actually like LR's the best because of his rollicking piano licks and his soulful, emotionally-charged vocals.)

Did Big Mama Thornton and Howlin' Wolf ever sing a duet together? That would have been a treat for the ears!

Posted by Zach on Saturday, 12.22.12 @ 16:26pm

The fact that the "first" rock n' roll song ever, EVER!!! Was Elvis' version of Big Mama Thornton's "That's All Right Mama" says all we really need to know about her "influence" on Rock n' Roll.

I mean seriously, how could you not say she didn't have a profound influence?

Posted by Zee Rox on Friday, 06.21.13 @ 17:14pm

Years go way past due

Posted by Happy on Friday, 06.21.13 @ 17:41pm

Why is "ball n chain" not an eccencial song? Why does she only have one eccencial song and no eccencial slbums? This woman is probrably the most influential woman in rock history, inspired everyone from Elvis to the Beatles to Janis Joplin

Posted by on Sunday, 07.3.16 @ 17:32pm

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