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Smithsonian Institution
Southern FusionAmericans Old and NewMidwestern CrossroadsSouthern FusionLouisiana, Where Music is King
Rufus Thomas

Rufus Thomas is a legend, the self-proclaimed "World's Oldest Teenager," and universally acclaimed sage of Memphis's Beale Street. Thomas first came to Beale Street some seventy years ago. "Back then," he says, "Beale Street was a black man's haven -- I couldn't say heaven, but close. People were coming from far and near, from the river to the railroad, from Arkansas, Alabama, Mississippi, coming to Beale Street. If you had a whole lot of troubles and things were bothering you, come to Beale Street and all your problems were gone. You could have nothing but good times on Beale Street and that's what it was all about."
       Thomas was soon tap-dancing in theaters, and before he was out of his teens he was an established, all-around entertainer: a singer, dancer, comedian, and one of the most ebulliant showmen in a town noted for its great performers. As a talent show host, he gave BB King and a hundred others their start, and he reigned as a d.j. on WDIA, the "Mother Station of the Negroes," playing the latest hits to an audience across the deep South. In the 1950s, he had one of the first hits for Sun Records, and in the 1960s his "Walking the Dog" became a groundbreaking hit for Stax, the label that would define southern soul.
       Today, Thomas continues to perform, often at the Memphis Blues and Heritage Festival, but he is even more captivating as a raconteur, telling tales of the glory days of old Memphis. He knew all the greats, from the bluesmen who played for tips in Handy Park to Elvis Presley and Otis Redding, and he has his own acerbic slant on the history of a town that has produced as much great music as any in the world.

Related Links

       The Legendary Sun Studio Presents "Bear Cat"

        Rufus Live! Reviewed in Memphis Mojo

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