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Stax Profiles: Rufus Thomas

Rufus Thomas

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Album Review

If the truth be known, Rufus Thomas wasn't the greatest of singers, but maybe due to his vaudeville background (he started his performing career as a comedian for the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels in the '30s), he knew how to handle a crowd and keep everyone riveted and on their feet from the moment he hit the stage with his assortment of funky songs about dogs, chickens, bear cats, and penguins, for Thomas understood a fundamental fact: it doesn't much matter what you're singing about if everybody's dancing. This concise anthology, Stax Profiles, collects tracks from his lengthy stay with Stax Records, including an alternate take of his signature "Walking the Dog" (it doesn't matter that the original single isn't compiled here; the song works the same in any and all versions that Thomas recorded), the original cut of the ridiculous yet completely and delightfully irresistible "Do the Funky Chicken," and a Stax remake of Thomas' original Sun Records single, "Bear Cat," which is really "Hound Dog" in all but name. There are other Thomas collections out there that cover virtually this same ground, but there is a nice flow to this one, and from the first note of "Walking the Dog," even the most disinterested of listeners will get the point.

Biography

Born: 26 March 1917 in Cayce, MS

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '30s, '40s, '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Few of rock & roll's founding figures are as likable as Rufus Thomas. From the 1940s onward, he has personified Memphis music; his small but witty cameo role in Jim Jarmusch's Mystery Train, a film which satirizes and enshrines the city's role in popular culture, was entirely appropriate. As a recording artist, he wasn't a major innovator, but he could always be depended upon for some good, silly, and/or outrageous fun with his soul dance tunes. He was one of the few rock...
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