|Les Demimondes at SummerWorks|
One of Canada’s most famous and celebrated sex workers, Sasha Von Bon Bon, is sure to titillate hipsters at Toronto’s SummerWorks Festival in her new play Les Demimondes. Plus, living legend Jackie Richardson dazzles as late blues legend Willie Mae Thornton in the musical Big Mama in Victoria
By Richard Burnett
|Bugs and Jackie|
“Big Mama drank her gin with milk,” legendary Montreal impresario Doudou Boicel told me over drinks (rum and ginger) at his home one afternoon.
Thornton was a regular headliner at Boicel’s Rising Sun Celebrity Jazz Club in Montreal back when that club was one the of the top two or three jazz and blues nightclubs in North America. In fact, the hard-drinking Thornton headlined there pretty much up until her final days. She died on July 25, 1984, at the age of 58.
Thornton remained bitter right to the end about how she and Johnny Otis were never properly credited for Hound Dog. “I’ve been singing before Elvis was even born,” she once famously quipped. “He makes a million and all this jive because his face is different from mine.”
So I’ll sign off with one last anecdote: Back in 1977 on the Sassy Mama album (Montreal-based Just a Memory Records), you can hear Big Mama sing her song Ball and Chain in a live set recorded at the Rising Sun. You can hear her tell her band to do the song “B.B. King-style,” then hear her a minute later chastise her guitarist Phil Guy (the late brother of Buddy Guy) for soloing too long.
As anyone who ever saw Thornton perform live will attest – as I can – Thornton may not have gotten her due in life, but no one messed with Big Mama on stage.
Click here for my star-studded tribute to Big Mama Thornton, with BB King, Doudou Boicel and Montreal’s Godfather of the Blues, Stephen Barry.
Jackie Richardson stars in Big Mama at Victoria's Belfry theatre until August 19 and then at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa April 24 - May 11, 2013.