Archive for July 31st, 2010

Big Mama Thorton at the 1965 American Folk Blues

After writing a short post about Stevie Ray Vaughan  the other day, marking 20 years since his death, I felt like hearing some blues.  Old school stuff.  After listening to a bit in the studio, I went searching for some old Buddy Guy online and came across a great piece of film from the American Folk Blues Festival in 1965. 

 It was a beautifully shot and produced performance by Big Mama Thorton backed by a young, slick Buddy Guy. She rambles out and belts out her best known song, Hound Dog.  Yes, the same song that propelled Elvis to mega-stardom.  There are a lot of purists who throw a lot of hate towards Elvis for taking Big Mama’s song and moving it out of the realm of race records, for making it a big hit on the predominantly white pop charts.  I’m not one of them.  I think Elvis did a great version of the song and in many ways it helped artists such as Big Mama find their way to a wider, more diverse audience.  And Big Mama did a version that was different than Elvis’.  It rocked hard in a bluesier, earthier way.  Big Mama was like a  human earthquake.

Check out this performance.  The sound and camera work is really top notch especially for a performance video of that era.  I’ve also included a video from the same session with Big Mama and several other bluesmen including Big Walter Horton and Doc Ross trading licks on their harps.  Check out John Lee Hooker on his harp, his trademark  guitar nowhere to be seen.  You ever see this one, David?

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