THE FIRST TIME I HEARD THIS MAN HE BLEW MY MIND! I WAS OUT RECORD SHOPPING THE OTHER DAY AND PICKED UP ONE OF HIS RECORDS AND I CAN'T STOP LISTENING TO IT! HERE IS RUFUS AT WATT STAX!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Rufus Thomas, one of the most beloved figures in the history of Blues and the renowned ambassador of Memphis music itself, died Saturday, December, 15th, of an apparent heart attack. A truly unique personality, who called himself "The World's Oldest Teenager," Thomas' career spanned more than 70 years.
He was born in Cayce, Mississippi, on March 26, 1917, but his family soon moved to Memphis, whereRufus spent the rest of his life. Entertaining was always in his blood and he became a professional performer in the early 1930s with the traveling vaudeville show, The Rabbit Foot Minstrels. With this group, Rufusworked as a tap dancer and as part of a comedy team known as Rufus and Bones, teamed with Robert "Bones" Couch.
In the late 1940s, Memphis radio station WDIA became the first black-operated station in the country, andRufus Thomas took a job as a disc jockey, where he helped to break the careers of such musicians as Bobby "Blue"Bland, B.B. King, Ike Turner, Roscoe Gordon and Junior Parker. All while still performing himself.
In 1953, Rufus recorded the single, "Bear Cat" for the Memphis Recording Studio, later to be known asSun Records. An answer song to Big Mama Thornton's then-popular record, "Hound Dog," it became the first national hit for the small record label. Despite the success of "Bear Cat", Rufus only recorded one more single for that label, as after the discovery of Elvis Presley the label turned more toward white performers.
But, it did not mean the end of Rufus Thomas' career. In 1959. Rufus and his daughter Carla, would become the first stars for new Memphis label, Stax Records,. when they recorded the single "'Cause l Love You." Rufus, solo and with Carla, would release a string of popular songs over the following years for Stax. Among the songs that would reach prominence were favorites such as "Walking The Dog" (1964) and "Do The Funky Chicken" (1969). The latter spawned a whole series of novelty dance songs named for "funky" animals.
Despite an apparent drop in popularity during the early 1970s following the demise of Stax, Rufus Thomas continued to work steadily in Memphis. In 1988, Alligator Records signed Thomas and released a come-back album titled "That Woman's Poison!," but it failed to generate the same acclaim as his earlier works.
Rufus Thomas was always an outspoken ambassador for Memphis and the music that originated there. When promoters in Chicago attempted to claim their city as the birthplace of the Blues, Thomas was first to step up and deny the statement. Over the years, he has appeared in numerous documentaries on the history of Blues and Rock music, Sun Records and Stax Records and Memphis in general. He also had a small role in the movie, "Mystery Train," filmed in Memphis.
In January,1992, he was honored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, named as an "Early Influence". At the ceremonies he performed onstage, singing "Dust My Broom" backed by a band which included Jimmy Page, Neil Young, The Isley Brothers, Johnny Cash, Keith Richards and John Fogerty. That same year, he saw recognition by The Rhythm and Blues Foundation's Pioneer Awards; he was a featured performer at the 1996 Olympic Games. The City of Memphis also honored Thomas with a portion of a street along Beale Street being renamed in his honor.
Rufus Thomas had open-heart surgery in 1998. Recently his health had begun to decline and he was admitted to St. Francis Hospital in Memphis on Thanksgiving Day, never regaining the strength to leave. He leaves behind his son Marvell, daughters Carla and Vaneese, and a granddaughter. He was 84 years old.