My friend in Atlanta, Ga told me the news this morning and I couldn't believe it. Her sister who lives in Memphis told her that she heard the news on his death early this morning on the news. She's very good friends with Carla Thomas.
I totally agree with Rufus' son Marvell, 'End of an era is gone'. My condolences to the Thomas family and friends. Rufus, thank you so very much for your great talent and making us feel so good hearing your music, and teaching folks like myself how to dance. Open the gates of soul heaven cause another legend is about to enter. Peaceful journey, Rufus.
(Chancellor of Soul)
1. Rocket 88
2. Fool For You Mama
3. Do Me Again
4. Keep That Music Simple
5. Just Because I Leave Don't Mean I'm Gone
6. I Like to Boogie
7. New Kinda Love
8. No More Doggin
9. Put My Money Down
10. Age Ain't Nothin But a Number
This album has our hero, Rufus Thomas shooting straight for the "white boy blues market"!
Now before you think I'm about to be critical of my boy "Uncle Rufus", keep reading because if anyone deserves to try to "cash in", it's Rufus Thomas, a true American Original!
Before I review the album itself, Here is a short bio on Rufus Thomas, courtesy of Rufus Thomas Historical Tour
Along with W.C. Handy, and Elvis Presley, Rufus Thomas has been one of the most influential people in Memphis music history. His his life has spanned, and added important contributions to the sounds of jug bands, Country Blues, amplified Blues, Rock n' Roll, Rockabilly, andSoul music styles.
Rufus Thomas is a local music celebrity, and radio DJ, who regularly performs in Memphis at the age of eighty.
Regarded as a living treasure, Rufus started performing for the early medicine show acts which toured the area. He arrived at on Beale Street, performing in vaudeville acts, and Master of Ceremonies for every major theater on Beale Street. Rufus's hits literally financially enabled two great record labels to exist, Sun, and Stax. "Bear Cat" was Sun's first hit, climbing to #3 on the R&B charts, providing much needed capital for the fledgling label. Remarkably, again, Thomas was responsible for the first successes at Stax Records, along with his daughter Carla, and son Marvelle with "Cause I Love You," and "Gee Whiz." Rufus also had hits at Stax like "The Funky Chicken," "The Funky Penguin," Walking the Dog," and the "Breakdown" and was also the "star" of the movie WATTSTAX.
Now that you know this marvelous man's history and his contributions/influence on Black history, on with a review of his most recent CD called SWING OUT…
1. The first cut on here is a cover of the song "Rocket 88", this is significant since most "rock critics" generally credit "Rocket 88" as being the very first "rock n' roll" song. I don't know if this is true or not, personally I don't believe that anyone truly knows what the first "rock n' roll" song is. However if anyone has a right to make a cover of "Rocket 88", it's Rufus Thomas, who as a Sun records employee back in 1951 was probably present when the original "Rocket 88" was recorded by Jackie Brenston on Sun records. Just why the song is credited to Jackie Brenston has always been a mystery to me, since the song was actually recorded by Ike Turner and his band (of which Jackie Brenston was a member).
2. The next cut called "Fool For You Mama" sounds like a modern day "jump blues" song in the tradition of Louis Jordan.
3. "Do Me Again" sounds gospel influenced to me including some female backup singers who sound like choir members in support of Rufus as he sings about his need to be "done again…..just to be sure".
4. "Keep That Music Simple" is a plea from "Reverend Rufus" to "keep it simple boy and you will get EVERYBODY up on the dance floor.." It's a funky cut that will also convince you that Rufus should also be known as one of the original rappers as well. The horn section is reminiscent of an AWB/Tower of Power kinda sound.
5. "I'm a suspicious man by nature and I DON'T miss a THING…", is the tag line in the song "Just Because I Leave Don't Mean I'm Gone", which takes us back to a recurring topic in Soul music….CHEATING.
The band which includes Steve Potts - Drums, Leroy Hodges - Bass, Bobby Manuel -= Guitar, Charles Hodges - Organ, James Mitchell - Baratone Sax, Andrew Love - Tenor Sax, Ben Cauley - Trumpet, Jack Hale - Trombone, really cooks here on this slow blues.
6. When the song "I Like to Boogie" fist starts it sounds like a P-Funk song and then it settles back into a similar groove to the songs that people most associate with Rufus such as "Breakdown", "Do the Push Pull" and of course his biggest hit, "Funky Chicken"! If you don't dance when this song comes on then you must be……… "DevoidOfFunk"
7. "New Kinda Love" features a great guitar solo and subtly funky organ workout in the backround as Rufus raps on top of the proceedings about his …… "new kinda love"
8. On the song "No More Doggin", Rufus tells us his tale of of a "doggin woman" that he is about to dump. This is the type of song that gets em dancing in Blues clubs.
9. Now this cut is SUPER FUNKY……" Put My Money Down" is one of those type of songs that "rock critics" would call "blues", but those of us from the inner city would surely recognize this song as something else altogether…..Imagine yourself (a 22 year old "disco kid" who thinks he knows all there is to know about music/life) in a neighborhood bar at 3pm in the afternoon in say Bed-Sty/Brooklyn, Hill District/Pittsburgh, 5th Ward/Houston, etc. You all know the types of places I'm talkin about (and shame on you if ya try to tell me that you have never been in one of these type of places cuz we all KNOW that you would be lying….lol)
This is the type of song that might be playing on the jukebox when you first walk in and are treated to the sight of the 60ish 350 lb owner doing a type of super NASTY FAST WILD ASS GRIND along with his equally "girthful" wife. The way that the two of them are dancing is about as close to actually having sex while still remaining fully clothed……lol
After the song ends the owner (who hadn't realized someone was watching) comes over and you sit and have a beer with him since the bar is empty, and he then proceeds to tell you the history of Black music from his perspective (which is quite a bit different from the history of the music as described by "rock critics"…..lol) you leave the bar having consumed 3 free beers that he wouldn't let you pay for, just having made a new friend for life…J
10. "Age Ain't Nothin But a Number" is a great way to end this album. I swear that Rufus looks exactly the same as he did the first time I ever saw his picture on an album cover back in the late 1960's. The only difference I guess is that maybe he no longer wears the pink hot pants that he used to wear for his appearances on the Soul Train TV show?
Anyhow, yall need to check out this album if you get a chance, it's a good one
-- Bob Davis