On August 18, 1910, Birmingham looked like a deserted city. All business had closed down, as had many stores in Bessemer and Ensley. It was "Baseball Day," and everyone in town who had the price of a ticket had gone to the grand opening of Rickwood Field. "There has never been such a day in Birmingham or in any other city of the Southern league," wrote one excited newspaper reporter. Sixty additional street cars had been put in service to aid in moving the anticipated crowd of as many as ten thousand people.
Elvis Presley may have made "Hound Dog" a household name, but the origins of the song are rooted deep in Alabama.
"Hound Dog" belonged originally to a rhythm and blues singer, named Willie Mae Thornton, who, at the time of Elvis's recording, was making her living on what Black entertainers called "The Chitlin' Circuit." She had a big voice and suitably imperious manners, all of which had given rise to a nickname that had quickly supplanted her given name. On her rendition of "Hound Dog," released as a 78 rpm record, she was billed as "Big Mama" Thornton.
"Big Mama's" version of "Hound Dog," recorded for Peacock Records on a hot August day in 1952 in Los Angeles, was the crowning achievement in the career of a singer who left her mark on rock and blues history. "Hound Dog" quickly climbed to No. 1 on the 1953 all-Black rhythm and blues charts and became a 500,000-plus seller. It also became by far the biggest success in Willie Mae Thornton's career.
In early 1962, while campaigning for governor, George C. Wallace vowed to stand in schoolhouse doors to block federally mandated school desegregation. By October, following the violence accompanying desegregation at Ole Miss, the University of Alabama clearly was next.
This year marks a year-long centennial celebration of the Rosenwald rural school building program. This program has been described as “one of the most ambitious school building programs ever witnessed in the United States.” And it all began in Alabama as a collaboration between a nationally renowned educator and a prominent businessman.
In 1870 a Civil War veteran from Pennsylvania settled in Selma, Alabama. By profession he was a jeweler, but by avocation he was a photographer. His name was Silas Orlando Trippe, and it is because of his hobby that we know him today.
From the Vault
Read complete classic articles and departments featured in Alabama Heritage magazine in the past 35 years of publishing. You'll find in-depth features along with quirky and fun departments that cover the people, places, and events that make our state great!