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Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton (December 11, 1926 – July 25, 1984) was an American rhythm and blues singer and songwriter. She was the first to record the hit song "Hound Dog" in 1952.
Thornton was born in Ariton, Alabama. Her introduction to music started in a Baptist church, where her father was a minister and her mother a church singer. She and her six siblings began to sing at very early ages. Thornton left Montgomery at age 14 in 1941, following her mother's death. She joined Sammy Green's Georgia-based Hot Harlem Revue. Her seven-year tenure with them gave her valuable singing and stage experience, and enabled her to tour the South. In 1948, she settled in Houston, Texas, where she hoped to further her career as a singer.
She was also a self-taught drummer and harmonica player, and frequently played each instrument onstage.
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