Rufus Thomas



RUFUS THOMAS was given unto this world on March 26th. (or 27th. depending on who you talk to) 1917 in the tiny hamlet of Cayce. Mississippi, a stone's throw from the Tennessee state line. He was the baby of five children born to Rufus Thomas. Sr. (Yes, Rufus was a Junior). His remarkable sense of humor was picked up from all the members of his family. Sisters Elizabeth, Willie, Eva and Dorothy were all natural comics but big brother Morris was the clown prince of all the siblings and influenced his little brother more than he (Rufus) probably realized.

The family packed up and moved to Memphis when Rufus was about 2 years old. His childhood was filled with all the normal thoughts of small boys...with one exception. He wanted to be a tap dancer in the Negro (the newly adopted descriptive term of the times) minstrel shows. By the time he entered Booker T. Washington High School, the desire had crystallized. He became actively involved in the school's annual Ballet, a theatrical production and was performing in his first minstrel show. the "Brown Brevities". as a tenth grader. Incredibly, he performed with burnt cork on his face in emulation of the white caricature until, as he said with dry understatement, "I looked in the mirror one day and discovered I was black!" Minstrelsy soon gave way to Vaudeville and he became an extraordinarily gifted tap dancer, and by the mid 1930s was working in theaters on Beale Street as a dancer and comic with Nat D. Williams, who, coincidentally, was his high school history teacher. He got his start as a singer when the female singer of the troupe left the show. He was asked to add blues singing to his comedy and dance routine. The rest, as the saying goes, is history.

He married his high school sweetheart, Cornelius Lorene Wilson in November, 1940, and they embarked on starting a family soon after. They had a long and happy marriage of nearly 60 years before the death of Lorene in February, 2000.

The American Finishing Company was a textile factory (read sweatshop) with a government contract to supply finished cloth for military uniforms during WWII. This place, where Rufus worked for more than 20 years without missing a single day, provided the backdrop against which the Thomases matured and developed into the strong cohesive family they have become. Along the way, Rufus taught his children, Marvell, Carla. and Vaneese, the unequalled importance of laughter. He understood, perhaps more than anyone, that laughter is a life giving force. and possessing immense healing properties. The whole world benefited greatly from his flawless timing and his innate skill in connecting to all people.

Rufus Thomas, through his dedication to his craft, his uncanny ability to put all people at ease, with his willingness to help other entertainers, especially young people, was one of the major pioneers of American popular music. He has been directly and indirectly responsible for the successful careers of nationally and internationally respected stars such as B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland, who are alumni of the Wednesday night amateur shows that Rufus organized and emceed at the famous Palace Theater on Beale Street. Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Rolling Stones, The Who, and many others have openly acknowledged his influence on their music. Some of these foreign stars have even traveled to Memphis to meet him and pay their respects.

Rufus Thomas gave freely of his time and talents. The awards he has received attest to his unselfish humanitarianism and number literally in the thousands. A few examples are: dozens of keys to cities, plaques commemorating his involvement in community affairs and charity funds raisers, a concert facility in Italy named in his honor, proclamations from a succession of Memphis and Shelby County mayors and governors of Tennessee, accolades from his peers in the entertainment industry. and uncountable numbers of smiles from fans around the world who have left his concerts knowing that they were truly ENTERTAINED!!

Rufus billed himself as "The World's Oldest Teenager." It's easy to see why. His love for and constant contact with young people in and out of the entertainment industry contributed immeasurably to his youthful persona. His mind boggling energy level was a never ending source of wonder to everyone who knew him.

RUFUS THOMAS is a shining example of what makes Memphis special to people all over the world. No one is more responsible for the music that visitors and Memphians alike come to Beale Street to experience. Rufus Thomas IS Beale Street...and Beale Street IS Memphis. His personal charisma and his great influence on music and its performers continues to spread the message of Memphis to the far comers of the globe. He should be unquestionably recognized as the valuable and irreplaceable asset to Memphis that he is. Everyone who loves Memphis loves RUFUS THOMAS.

Marvell Thomas

Rufus Thomas was the first to record a hit at the Mc Lemore studio in 1960. He was also the last one to record in that late temple of soul music in 1975. Born back in 1917 in Casey, Mississippi, he recorded for Star Talent, Meteor, Chess and Sun before joining Stax from its very beginning to the end, along with his daughter Carla and his son Marvell. He died on December 15th, 2001.

See tribute page here.




Satellite 102 : Cause I Love You / Deep Down Inside (Rufus & Carla)
Atco 6177 : Cause I Love You / Deep Down Inside (Rufus & Carla)
Atco 6199 : I Didn't believe / Yeah Yea-Ah (Rufus & Friend)
Stax 126 : Can't Ever Let You Go / It's Aw'rite
Stax 130 : The Dog / Did You Ever Love A Woman
Stax 140 : Walking The Dog / Fine And Mellow / You Said (alternate B side)
Stax 144 : Can Your Monkey Do The Dog / I Want To Get Married
Stax 149 : Somebody Stole My Dog / I Want To Be Loved
Stax 151 : That's Really Some Good / Night Time Is The Right Time (Rufus & Carla)
Stax 157 : Jump Back / All Night Worker
Stax 167 : Little Sally Walker / Baby Walk
Stax 173 : Willy Nilly / Sho' Gonna Mess Him Up
Stax 176 : When You Move You Lose / We're Tight (Rufus & Carla)
Stax 178 : The World Is Round / Chicken Scratch
Stax 184 : Birds And Bees / Never Let You Go (Rufus & Carla)
Stax 200 : Sister's Got A Boyfriend / Talking 'Bout True Love
Stax 221 : Sophisticated Sissy / Greasy Spoon
Stax 240 : Down Ta' My House / Steady Holding On
Stax 250 : The Memphis Train / I Think I Made A Boo Boo
Stax 0010 : Funky Mississipi / Hard To Get Along With
Stax 0022 : Funky Way / I Want To Hold You
Stax 0059 : Do The Funky Chicken / Turn Your Damper Down
Stax 0071 : The Preacher And The Bear / 60 Minute Man
Stax 0079 : Do The Push And Pull Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0090 : The World Is Round / I Love You For Sentimental Reasons
Stax 0098 : The Breakdown Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0112 : The Funky Penguin Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0129 : 6-3-8 (That's The Number To Play) / Love Trap
Stax 0140 : Itch And Scratch Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0153 : Funky Robot Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0177 : I Know (I Love You So) / I'm Still In Love With You
Stax 0187 : I'll Be Your Santa Baby / That Makes Christmas Day
Stax 0192 : The Funky Bird / Steal A Little
Stax 0219 : Boogie Ain't Nuttin' Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0236 : Do The Double Bump Pt. I / Pt. II
Stax 0254 : Jump Back '75 Pt. I / Pt. II


WALKING THE DOG - Stax 704 : The Dog ; Mashed Potatoes ; Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo ; You Said ; Boom Boom ; It's Aw'rite / Walking The Dog ; Ya Ya ; Land Of 1,000 Dances ; Can You Monkey Do The Dog ; Cause I Love You ; I Want To Be Loved.  (reissued on CD)

MAY I HAVE YOUR TICKET PLEASE? - Stax 2022 : The Memphis Train... (UNISSUED)

DO THE FUNKY CHICKEN - Stax 2028 : Funky Chicken/Let The Good Times Roll/Sixty Minute Man/Lookin' For A Love/Bearcat//Old McDonald Had A Farm, Parts 1 & 2/Rufus Rastus Johnson Brown/Soul Food/Turn Your Damper Down/The Preacher And The Bear.  (reissued on CD)

DOING THE PUSH AND PULL AT PJ'S - Stax 2039 : Monologue/Ooh Poo Pah Doo/Old McDonald Had A Farm/Walking The Dog//The Preacher And The Bear/The Night Time Is The Right Time/(Do The) Push And Pull/Do The Funky Chicken.  (reissued on CD)

DID YOU HEARD ME - Stax 3004 : (Do The) Push And Pull, Parts 1 & 2/The World Is Round/(I Love You) For Sentimental Reasons/The Breakdown, Part 1//The Breakdown, Part 2/Love Trap/Do The Funky Penguin, Parts 1 & 2/Ditch Digging.  (reissued on CD)

CROWN PRINCE OF DANCE - Stax 3008 : Git On Up And Do It/I Know You Don't Want Me No More/Funkiest Man Alive/Tutti Frutti/Funky Robot//I Wanna Sang/Baby It's Real/Steal A Little/I'm Still In Love With You/The Funky Bird.  (reissued on CD)

WATTSTAX - VARIOUS ARTISTS (2 LPs) - Stax 3010 (part) : The Breakdown/Do The Funky Chicken/Do The Funky Penguin.  (reissued on CD)

CAN'T GET AWAY FROM THIS DOG - Ace CD 038 : Walking The Dog (Promo) ; Can't Get Away From This Dog ; Forty Four Long ; Strolling Beale N 1 ; Cherry Red Blues ; Walking The Dog (take 2) ; Carry Me Back To Old Virginny ; Barefootin' ; A Story That's Never Been Told ; Last Clean Shirt ; Show Me The Way To Go Home ; Jump Back (alt) ; My Girl ; We're Gonna Make It (with Carla Thomas) ; Don't Mess Up A Good Thing (with Carla Thomas) ; I Want To Hold you ; Can Your Monkey Do The Dog (alt) ; Stop Kicking My Dog Around ; Wang Dang Doodle ; Reconsider Baby (with Carla Thomas).

THE FUNKIEST MAN - Ace CD 135 : Funkiest Man Alive • Give Me The Green Light • Itch And Scratch (Part 1) • Turn Your Damper Down • Funky Hot Grits • I'm Getting Better • Sophisticated Sissy • Funky Mississippi • Git On Up And Do It • The Breakdown (Part 1) • (Do The) Push And Pull (Part 1) • Do The Funky Penguin (Part 1) • Do The Double Bump • Funky Robot (Part 1) • Memphis Train '75 • Let The Good Times Roll • The Funky Bird • Rock Me Back Aka Rock Back.

ACE VARIOUS CDs - Ace 040 : Do The Dog ; Walking The Dog (live) ; Ace 042 : Walking The Dog (take 1) ; Don't Mess Up A Good Thing (Rufus & Carla) ; Ace 074 : Ride your Pony.