Rufus Thomas was the preeminent DJ of Memphis’ WDIA, the nation’s first radio station with an all-Black air staff.

He was the first black artist on Sun Records, the label of Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, and Jerry Lee Lewis. About Sam Phillips & Sun Records, for whom he cut “Bearcat” in 1953, the label’s first single to chart, Rufus Thomas had this to say: “Me and Sam Phillips? We were tighter than the nuts on the Brooklyn Bridge.”

“Few of rock & roll’s founding figures are as likable as Rufus Thomas. From the 1940s onward, he has personified Memphis music;  As a recording artist, he wasn’t a major innovator, but he could always be depended upon for some good, silly, and/or outrageous fun with his soul dance tunes. He was one of the few rock or soul stars to reach his commercial and artistic peak in middle age, and was a crucial mentor to many important Memphis blues, rock, and soul musicians.

{His} biggest hit by far was “Walking the Dog,” which made the Top Ten in 1963, and was covered by the Rolling Stones on their first album.”
-Richie Unterberger


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