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Meet 'The Soul of Memphis': Rufus Thomas

I was thinking about the old "Soul of Memphis," the multi-talented RUFUS THOMAS, the other day after Scott found a video of him doing his 1963 Hit, WALKING THE DOG.

 

He had a long career, starting in vaudeville, singing and tap dancing in the 1930's and eventually became a Star Deejay on Memphis' legendary WDIA Radio Station. He was great on the air, often funny and topical, and is one of the few, if any jocks I remember, that were on the air before and after their successful recording careers.

 

Sun Records iconic owner, SAM PHILLIPS, loved Rufus and arranged to record him for The Chess Brothers in Chicago, but the records didn't go very far and Rufus kept on playing other folks stuff on the radio. He arranged for his 16-year-old daughter, CARLA, to cut some sides for STAX Records, one with the two of them singing a duet, "Cause I love you," that got enough exposure for STAX to get a distribution deal with Atlantic Records in NYC.

 

Carla cut a tune called GEE WHIZ, that topped the R&B and Pop Charts; and Rufus produced by the great TOM DOWD, cut his own Pop and R&B hit called, THE DOG, IN 1961, with a catchy bass line composed by my late friend and colleague, WILLIE MITCHELL.

 

In 1963 he cut the follow-up song to 'The Dog" called, 'Walking the Dog,' which became something of a Dance Sensation and took him into the Gold Fields with a big Pop Top 10. He continued to release chart records backed by either Booker T and the MG's or the Bar K's, but didn't have another smash until 1970 when he scored again with "The Funky Chicken."

 

I could talk about him for another hour, but our space is limited. So here he is in 1965 with his first big hit, 'Walking the Dog," on early black and white TV with good sound. In 2001 Rufus Thomas was inducted into the Blues Hall of fame and died at age 84 the same year, buried next to his wife Lorene. @therealdonrocks

 

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