Rufus Thomas has been called the great-grandfather of funk, which is certainly true. He was there in the formative years and championed the music on his radio shows.

He then went on to write a string of novelty soul hits that tended towards funk in later years. Stax Records first (local) hit was a duet between Rufus and Carla Thomas called “Cause I Love You”. Radio pushed sales of 40,000 copies.

Later, his single “Bear Cat” (a reply to “Hound Dog” that earned Sun a lawsuit from Leiber/Stoller’s publisher).  

Thomas and his daughter Carla were the first stars of Stax. His “Walking the Dog” was later covered by the Rolling Stones. In the early ’70s, “Do the Funky Chicken,” “(Do The) Push and Pull,” and “The Breakdown” all made the R&B Top Five. His string of hits ended with the collapse of Stax in 1975.

Rufus and Ben Schwag hooked up in the late ‘90s when Thomas was on one of his regular European tours. Together they recorded “If There Were no Music” at the semi-legendary Kitsch Studios in Brussels with a big, brash funk sound – probably one of his last great recordings.

Incidentally, listen carefully and you might hear Stanley Wade (The Trammps) on backing vocals!

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