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Jonas Westover

(b Boston, MA, May 10, 1937). American music critic, publicist, and editor. Solomon is best known for her contributions to the Village Voice, but has also written for Down Beat, Country Music, Hit Parader, the News World, and Us. She was one of the first women involved in popular music criticism; her work focused on folk music of the 1960s, jazz, blues, rock, and country music. Solomon’s column in the Village Voice was called “Riffs.” She also served as editor for the magazine ABC-TV Hootenanny (1963–4), which highlighted performers on the television show of the same name who were just beginning to rise to fame, including Judy Collins, Earl Scruggs, and Doc Watson. Other writers whose work appeared in the magazine included Theodore Bikel and Jean Shepard. Another of her important editing positions was on the magazine New Musical Express (NME) in the 1970s. Solomon also had a brief tenure as a publicist for Chess Records, where she produced a number of liner notes. Her commentary on such diverse subjects as J.J. Cale and Paul McCartney has given her voice a lasting impression in the music business....

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Maureen Mahon

[Willie Mae ]

(b Ariton, AL, Dec 11, 1926; d Los Angeles, CA, July 25, 1984). American blues singer, songwriter, harmonica player, and drummer. When she was 14 years old, Thornton left home to join Sammy Green’s Hot Harlem Review, a traveling variety show that toured the south. She developed an act that incorporated comedy and singing, carrying on the sound and attitude of classic blues women such as Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Thornton left the troupe in 1947 and settled in Houston, Texas, where Don Robey, owner of Peacock Records, signed her in 1951. While touring with Johnny Otis in the early 1950s, Thornton got her nickname after her performance at Harlem’s Apollo Theater brought down the house. Commenting on Thornton’s physical size and vocal power, venue manager Frank Schiffman called her “Big Mama.”

“Hound Dog” (1953) was Thornton’s third single for Peacock and her first and only hit. Written for Thornton by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller at the suggestion of Otis, “Hound Dog” featured Thornton’s commanding blues shout, notable for its confident growl and saucy attitude, against spare guitar and drum instrumentation and a rumba rhythm. Thornton’s version stayed on the rhythm and blues charts for 14 weeks, seven in the number one position. “Hound Dog” was covered numerous times, most famously by Elvis Presley in ...