Rufus Thomas 1917-2001
December 17, 2001 8:40 PM   Subscribe

Rufus Thomas 1917-2001 Since the 11th of September, I've left the radio off a great deal of the time, so it was only today, while listening to Terry Gross's Fresh Air, that I heard Rufus Thomas had died. A performer since he was child comedian and tap dancer with the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels, he also was a famous dj on WDIA in Memphis, the first all-black radio station format in the country, recorded Bear Cat, an answer song to Big Mama Thornton's Hound Dog that was an early hit for Sam Phillips' Sun Records and enjoyed a brief second career as the World's Oldest Teenager--singing Walkin' The Dog and Funky Chicken and many duets with daughter Carla--for Stax Records. From minstrel show to medicine show to dj to elder statesman of Memphis soul, his life and career spanned history. I, for one, will miss him.
posted by y2karl (10 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
And he listed as his greatest achievement, this--Being married to my wife for 57 years. Always a class act, and as his son said, it's the end of an era.
posted by y2karl at 8:50 PM on December 17, 2001

I remember in 1984 or so, when I was about 15 and living in Greenville, MS, part of my class took a field trip to Memphis. Some of us went down to Beale St. (this was shortly before the city of Memphis Disneyfied Beale) and saw Rufus Thomas in a mostly-empty bar. He got us up on stage to do the funky chicken with him. I had my first beer in a bar. I couldn't believe my luck that night.

What a great guy.
posted by delapohl at 9:13 PM on December 17, 2001

Thank you, karl. A great singer and a great guy.
posted by rodii at 9:16 PM on December 17, 2001

And his daughter, Carla wasn't too shabby a singer in her own right, either.

Her bio can be found at . IMHO, her rendition of "Gee Whiz" is one of those classics that I never tire of hearing.
posted by MAYORBOB at 9:19 PM on December 17, 2001

Rufus Thomas "the World's Oldest Teenager" lived up to that title in the best sense of the word, always keeping that childlike enthusiasm for music and his goofy sense of humor alive(check out "Can Your Monkey Do the Dog"). As a DJ, and an artist he left a great legacy and he will be missed.

Mayor Bob-"Gee Whiz" is terrific along with "B-A-B-Y" but for my money it's her duet with Otis Redding on "Tramp" that ranks with the best rock and roll songs of all time.
posted by jonmc at 9:37 PM on December 17, 2001

And don't forget Lovey Dovey by Otis and Carla...
posted by y2karl at 9:39 PM on December 17, 2001

I have the '45 of Walkin' the Dog, a beat-up recording I inherited from my step-dad's records collection that he collected when he was a teen. When I first heard it in the heady days of Poison and Motley Crue, it was a brand of intensity and sincerity in music that I had never experienced. Man, he'll be missed.
posted by waxpancake at 10:44 PM on December 17, 2001

A sad irony for me was hearing of Thomas' death shortly after friends gave my wife and I The Stax/Volt Complete Singles as a wedding present. One of the best gifts I've ever been given. My Rufus/Carla highlight: 1964's "That's Really Some Good."
posted by BT at 7:50 AM on December 18, 2001

Sad. James Carr this year as well.
posted by Mocata at 2:24 AM on December 19, 2001

Well, finally... (mefi/mefi, y'know)

Hey, Mocata, I'm with you on James Carr and what a tragic life...

I just got a CD compilation of his and am going to use it on my next show, along with some Rufus's stuff, too. Man, all I'm doing anymore are memorials...
posted by y2karl at 11:37 PM on December 20, 2001

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