b. 26th March 1917, Cayce, Mississippi, U.S.A.
d. 15th December 2001, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A.
Rufus Thomas first recorded as a member of the Rabbit's Foot Minstrels.
They were an old vaudeville band that toured the circuits in 1935.
Rufus then met Nat D. Williams, whilst still at high school, a history teacher who organized annual variety shows.
By the late 1940's Rufus found himself performing in several Memphis nightclubs and he set up several local talent shows.
Rufus also ran his own Beale Street amateur show, where Rufus discovered B.B. King, Bobby Bland and Little Junior Parker.
Rufus was also a disc jockey at WDIA and remained there until 1974, replacing B.B. King due to B.B.'s growing popularity.
In 1949 be began his recording career with 'Ill Be A Good Boy' for the Star talent imprint.
By the 1950's, Rufus had contributed greatly to the Sun Records label working alongside Sam Phillips.
Rufus also recorded for the Chess and Meteor imprints before 'Bear Cat' became a Top 3 U.S. R & B hit.
The song was an answer offering to Willie Mae Thornton's 'Hound Dog'.
The song was released on Sun in 1953.
Although Rufus was a respected in his own right, he complained in later years that Sun's black artists were pushed aside after Elvis Presley's version of 'Hound Dog' became a hit.
In 1959, he recorded a duet with his daughter Carla Thomas entitled 'Cause I Love You' for the Satellite label, a label that was later to become Stax Records.
Rufus released several hit songs, notably 'Walking The Dog' in 1963, a song that made the U.S. Top Ten.
He recorded 'Jump Back', 'Can You Do The Monkey Dog' and 'All Night Worker' a year later.
In 1967, Rufus released the song 'Sophisticated Sissy' and in 1968 'Memphis Train'.
This led to an assortment of dance numbers including 'Do The Funky Chicken' in 1970, '(Do The) Push And Pull, Part V' in the same year and 'Do The Funky Penguin' in 1971).
He remained at the Stax imprint until 1975, when the label folded, relocating to the AVI imprint.
Rufus's releases at that label included 'If There Were No Music' and 'I Ain't Getting Older I'm Gettin' Better'.
In 1980, Rufus re-recorded several of his older songs for a self-titled collection on Gusto.
In the 80's he abandoned R & B and recorded some rap with 'Rappin' Rufus', on the Ichiban label, and tackled blues with 'That Woman Is Poison', on the Alligator label.
Bob Fisher's Sequel Records released a new album from Rufus in 1996.
'Blues Thang' celebrated his 79th birthday at the time of release.
Rufus held three concerts at the Olympic Games in Atlanta the following year.
1998 saw Rufus hosting the Beale Street New Year's Eve celebrations and played in Nashville the same year.
In 1998, he underwent open-heart surgery at a Memphis hospital.
Rufus Thomas 'the world's oldest teenager' died from heart failure in December 2001 in Memphis Tennessee.
Below are some photo's of Rufus on a trip to Belgium in 1987. These were sent to me by a hairdresser called Fabrice Corbanie, who you can see cutting Rufus's hair. Many thanks for these Fabrice. Lovely images.
Walking The Dog (Stax 1963)
Do The Funky Chicken (Stax 1970)
Doing The Push And Pull Live At PJ's (Stax 1971)
Did You Heard Me? (Stax 1972)
Crown Prince Of Dance (Stax 1973)
Blues In The Basement (Artists Of America 1975)
If There Were No Music (AV1 1977)
I Ain't Gettin' Older I'm Gettin' Better (AVI 1977)
Rufus Thomas (Gusto 1980)
Rappin' Rufus (Ichiban 1986)
That Woman Is Poison (Alligator 1989)
Timeless Funk (Prestige 1992)
Blues Thang (Sequel 1996)