Both hard drinkers, for awhile they shared the same recording label, Peacock, out of Houston where Thornton settled (and later the Bay region).
Thornton was with Johnny Ace on Christmas Day in 1954, back stage between sets at a Houston show, when the ever present .22 pistol Ace often fooled with appeared. Scolded for carelessly pointing the pistol at two women friends, Ace then held the pistol to his own head claiming it wasn't loaded and jokingly pulled the trigger.
He was buried in his birthplace Memphis at age 25.
Big Mama Thornton would storm the stage for thirty more years.