Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Rufus Thomas

Rufus Thomas (March 26, 1917December 15, 2001) was a rhythm and blues and soul singer from Memphis, Tennessee, who recorded on Sun Records in the 1950s and on Stax Records in the 1960s and 1970s. He was the father of soul singer Carla Thomas.
1 Early life and education
2 Professional singing career
3 Unsuccessful recordings
4 Hit records
5 Death
6 References
7 External links

Early life and education
Born a sharecropper's son in the rural community of Cayce, Mississippi, Thomas moved to Memphis with his family at age 2. Thomas made his artistic debut at the age of 6 playing a frog in a school theatrical production. Much later in life, he would impersonate all kinds of animals: cats, chickens, dogs, penguins. By age 10, he was a tap dancer, performing in amateur productions at Memphis' Booker T. Washington High School.
He attended one semester at Tennessee A&I University, but due to economic conditions left to pursue a career as a professional entertainer, joining up in 1936 with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels, an all-black revue that toured the South.

Professional singing career
He made his professional singing debut at the Elks Club on Beale Street in Memphis, filling in for another singer at the last minute. He made his first 78 rpm record in 1943 for the Star Talent label in Texas, "I'll Be a Good Boy", backed with "I'm So Worried."
He also become an on-air personality with WDIA, one of the first radio stations in the US to feature an all-black staff and programming geared toward blacks. He become one of the station's most popular DJs.
His celebrity was such that in 1953 he recorded an "answer record" to Big Mama Thornton's hit, "Hound Dog" called "Bear Cat" and released on Sun Records. Although the song was the label's first hit, a copyright-infringement suit ensued and nearly bankrupted Sam Phillips' record label.

Unsuccessful recordings
He recorded three songs for the Meteor record label, none of which were hits, and continued to perform in clubs and on the radio.
In 1960, he recorded the track "Cause I Love You" with his daughter Carla, for the fledgling Stax Records (at that time still called Satellite Records). His biggest hit with Stax was "Walking the Dog", which has been covered by The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Dave Stewart, Ratt and Barbara Gaskin, and was played live by the Grateful Dead in both 1970 and 1984.
He was often referred to as "The World's Oldest Teenager", though he always answered he was "The World's Finest Teenager". He was a charismatic stage presence, telling jokes and dancing, and wearing capes and brightly colored hot pants.

Hit records
Thomas had a number of hits in the late 1960s and early 1970s, notably a string of songs that were tied to a then-current dance craze: "Do the Funky Chicken", "(Do the) Push and Pull", "The Breakdown" and "Do the Penguin". He performed at Wattstax in 1972, leading a crowd of 40,000 in the "Funky Chicken."
He played an important part in the Stax reunion in 1988, and had a small role in the 1989 Jim Jarmusch film Mystery Train. He released an album That Woman is Poison! with Alligator Records in 1990.
Thomas was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001.

He died later that year at St. Francis Hospital in Memphis. A street is named in his honor, just off Beale Street in Memphis.

Greenberg, Steve. Do the Funky Somethin': The Best of Rufus Thomas (liner notes), Rhino Records, 1996.
Unterberger, Richie. Rufus Thomas Biography at Allmusic.com. Retrieved December 26, 2005.
Rufus Thomas was referenced by Samuel L. Jackson in Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill.

External links
Rufus Thomas Biography at Yahoo.com
Rufus Thomas Biography at Alligator Records
Retrieved from "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rufus_Thomas"
Categories: 1917 births 2001 deaths American blues singers American male singers American R&B singers Sun Records artists



Blogger ichbinalj said...

Aretha Franklin is the greatest singer in Rock n' Roll era, acccording to a new Rolling Stone magazine poll.

She's already the Queen of Soul, but now Aretha Franklin has been named the greatest singer of the rock era in a poll conducted by Rolling Stone magazine.

Franklin, 66, came in ahead of Ray Charles at No. 2, Elvis Presley at No. 3, Sam Cooke at No. 4 and John Lennon at No. 5, according to the magazine's survey of 179 musicians, producers, Rolling Stone editors, and other music-industry insiders.

The 100-strong list will be published on Friday 14 November 2008, when Rolling Stone hits the newsstands with four different covers. (11/11/2008 Reuters)

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