Rufus Thomas, Man of the House of Happiness

Walk of Fame at Orpheum Theater in Memphis, photographed by Thomas R. Machnitzki, courtesy of a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license.

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Rufus Thomas, Man of the House of Happiness

by Thomas Hackett
Southern Cultures, Vol. 19, No. 1: Global Music

"His career was entwined with virtually every great blues, R&B, and soul performer of the twentieth century, including Son House, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, B.B. King, and Al Greene; yet, Thomas believed that as a pure entertainer he has no equal."

In his eighty-four years, Rufus Thomas worked with hundreds of colorfully named musicians and radio personalities—like “Hot Rod” and “Honey Boy,” “Moolah” and “Gatemouth”—but other than calling himself “the world’s finest teenager,” Thomas never needed a funky handle to distinguish himself as a singer, songwriter, and disc jockey in Memphis, Tennessee. His career was entwined with virtually every great blues, R&B, and soul performer of the twentieth century, including Son House, Muddy Waters, Sam Cooke, B.B. King, and Al Greene; yet, Thomas believed that as a pure entertainer he had no equal. As he put it: “There is nobody alive, on the face of the earth, who can do Rufus like I do Rufus.”