Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thorton, the legendary blues singer and song-writer, headlined an incredibly strong and well-produced Travelin' Blues Workshop at Lisner auditorium yesterday. The workshop is a brainchild of Eliot Ryan, publisher of the local Unicorn Times, and was begun to serve as a fill-in between concert tours for individual blues artists.
Flying in from Los Angeles to headline this engagement, Thornton recently received a small flurry of publicity following the death of Elvis Presley. Thornton wrote "Hound Dog" and recorded it four years before Presley. She also wrote "Ball and Chain," recorded by Janis Joplin. (Mattie Fields, Thornton's assistant, said she received no royalities from "Ball and Chain.")
In her Sunday afternoon set, Thornton sang both of these tunes as well as blues standards such as "Rooster Blues" and "Rock Me Baby."
Archie Edwards, former accompanist of the late Mississippi John Hurt, sang several of Hurt's tunes such as "I'm Down Today" and "Lovin' Spoonful."
Mama Scott, the veteran singer/guitarist, received loud applause for two black blues standards that have also been made famous by white artists, "Aggravating Papa Don't You Two-Time Me and "Midnight Special."
Flora Molten, resident guitarist-singer at 11th and F Streets NW, sang her theme song, "Do Lord Remember Me."
John Jackson playedmany original blues instruments such as "Guitar Rag," old Bessie Smith standards and other staples of the Mississippi Delta Blues tradition.