Review : Rufus Thomas - Do The Funky Chicken
PopmattersRufus Thomas is the most overlooked, under-appreciated artist to ever come from the Stax imprint. Period. Done. End of story. There isn’t a single other artist who recorded at 926 East McLemore Avenue in the 1960s and 1970s that was as dismissed, discounted and disrespected as the man who gave Stax its first real hit with “Cause I Love You” in the ‘60s.
Why? Well, it’s a combination of reasons, really. Thomas’s knack for absurdity combined with his insistence upon gravitating toward novelty songs are probably the two most prominent factors. It’s hard to take an artist who penned four singles with such titles as “The Dog”, “Walking The Dog”, “Can Your Monkey Do The Dog” and “Somebody Stole My Dog” as serious as you would take, say, an Otis Redding or a Sam and Dave, two legendary acts that helped build Stax up to the legendary status it ultimately achieved.
But that doesn’t mean Thomas’s talents should be ignored. As the years went on, the singer became somewhat of an elder statesman for the Memphis label. His daughter Carla became a star that shone so bright, some argue she eclipsed her father. His son Marvell played keyboards on some of the most classic soul/R&B tunes ever recorded. And his third child, Vaneese, reportedly spends her time these days recording vocal tracks for commercials.
Though even with all that in mind, his influence and impact on soul music as a whole has been criminally undermined by the heavy hitters that came to prominence during his heyday. Sure, working nonsensical dances into the hook of some earlier recordings might have worked against his quest for superstardom, but it also didn’t help that he had to compete with some of the greatest voices American music has ever provided. It wasn’t that Thomas didn’t have talent. It was just that he was surrounded with artists who ended up going down in the annals of music history as some of the best voices and/or performers to ever get on a stage....full text
BlogcriticsThe Concord Music Group has been re-issuing classic albums from the extensive catalogue of the Stax label. Their latest three releases, due September 13, are Whatcha See Is Whatcha Get by The Dramatics, Woman To Woman by Shirley Brown, and the subject of this review, Do The Funky Chicken by Rufus Thomas.
Stax was a gritty soul label, originally located in Memphis, Tennessee. It was founded by Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton who used the first two letters of their last names to form the name. It featured funk and a hard core rhythm & blues sound. Some of the artists who graced the label were Booker T. & The M.G.’s, Sam & Dave, Johnnie Taylor, Albert King, The Staple Singers, Isaac Hayes, The Dramatics, Carla Thomas, and Rufus Thomas.
He was born in Cayce, Mississippi, March 27, 1917. He began his music career during 1936 and made his first recordings during 1943. His most famous early recording was “Bear Cat” for the Sun label in 1953. It was an answer song to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog.” Until he began producing hits for Stax, he worked 22 years in a textile factory.
His career with Stax can be divided into two parts. His 1963-1964 singles received extensive radio airplay, and many appeared on the Billboard Magazine pop and rhythm & blues charts. His 1963 album, Walking The Dog, was one of the most successful of his career. Then for five years, the commercial success just about came to a halt. During 1969, he recorded the album, May I Have Your Ticket Please, which Stax did not even release.
He was in his early 50s when he began his comeback. “Do The Funky Chicken,” both the album and the single, remain the most memorable of his career. He was backed by members of The Bar-kays. The album now returns with 24-bit remastering, eight bonus tracks, and new liner notes which place the music in its historical context....full text
BlindedbysoundAs the 1960s wore on, the Stax label focused on current artists such as Otis Redding and Booker T and the M.G.'s while Rufus Thomas, an early hit maker for the label was being left behind. Now in his early 50s, Thomas had been left off the label's tour of Europe — a move he found insulting — and his 1968 cover of Eddie Floyd's "Funky Mississippi" was recorded for an album that was never released. Undeterred, Thomas returned to the studio in 1969, backed by his son Marvell and members of the Bar-Kays to record his own "Do The Funky Chicken." Based on a dance, it became the title track for his new album and was a big hit for Thomas, hitting number 5 on the R&B charts.
Opening with a chicken call, the song launches into an irresistible funk groove with killer accompaniment from the Memphis horns. Thomas gets so into the music, he uses some of his old disc jockey bits, saying, "Oh I'm feeling it now. I feel so unnecessary. This is the kind of stuff that makes you want to do something nasty, like waste some chicken gravy on your white shirt right down front." The song is at once infectious and comical and totally Thomas.
On "Sixty Minute Man," Thomas mixes a scat vocal over a tribal, swampy rhythm before going into a gritty vocal performance about his performance in the bedroom. If one could mix voodoo with the blues and take it down to the bayou, they'd have this.
Thomas covers himself on "Bear Cat (AKA Hound Dog), a song he first cut for Sun Records in 1953 that was an answer record to Big Mama Thornton's original version of "Hound Dog." Thomas gives it the up-tempo Stax soul treatment here with call-and-response vocals and horns. It's a killer funk track with Thomas making "bear cat" noises over the horn solo....full text
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