Rufus Thomas (March 26, 1917 - December 15, 2001) was a highly acclaimed and veteran R&B singer-songwriter, dancer, DJ, comedian, and Memphis music icon who became famous beginning in the early 1960s for his many lovable canine-themed dance songs and other mostly self-penned novelty tunes. Born Rufus C. Thomas, Jr. in Cayce, Mississippi and raised in Memphis, Tennessee, he began his long career in show business in the 1930s while still in his teens as a tap dancer, vaudeville performer, emcee, and comic entertainer. By the early 1940s, he was writing and performing his own songs and amassing a strong local following in the Memphis area. In 1950, Thomas launched his recording career, releasing a string of singles on Chess, Sun, and several other labels, and went to work the following year as a DJ at WDIA in Memphis. By the early 1960s, he had signed with Stax Records and, along with his daughter Carla Thomas, became one of that label's top recording artists.
Thomas made his debut in 1953 on the R&B charts with "Bear Cat," an answer song to Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog" which became a Top 5 hit. He re-emerged years later on both the Pop/Rock and R&B charts with "The Dog" (1963), which became an R&B Top 40 hit and the first in a long string of novelty dance tunes. His fame took off soon after with "Walking The Dog" (1963), a Top 5 R&B hit which also made the Pop/Rock Top 10 and became among his best known songs. Other early 1960s hits included "Can Your Monkey Do The Dog" (1964), "Somebody Stole My Dog" (1964), "Jump Back" (1964), "That's Really Some Good" (1964), and "Night Time Is The Right Time" (1964), the latter two songs of which were performed as duets with daughter Carla. His string of novelty dance tunes continued in 1970 with "Do The Funky Chicken," which was followed later that year by his greatest hit, the R&B chart-topper, "(Do The) Push And Pull Part I." Thomas' later hits included "The Breakdown (Part I)" (1971), "Do The Funky Penguin Part I" (1971), and "Do The Double Bump" (1975).
After his commercial peak in the early 1970s, Rufus Thomas continued to record and tour actively worldwide through the 1990s. In 2001, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, and his many other honors and accolades included a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm & Blues Foundation (1992) and an ASCAP Lifetime Achievement Award (1997). In commemoration of his 80th birthday, the City of Memphis renamed a road off Beale Street as Rufus Thomas Boulevard.
- The New York Times remembers Memphis music icon Rufus Thomas.
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- The Breakdown (Part I) 1971
- Do The Funky Chicken 1970
- (Do The) Push And Pull Part I 1970
- Walking The Dog 1963
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