Musician Rufus Thomas, whose "Bear Cat" helped Sun Records get its start and whose "Funky Chicken" gave a boost to the Stax Label, died Saturday. He was 84. Rufus Thomas was best known for novelty dance recordings like "Walking the Dog", "Do the Funky Chicken" and "Push and Pull." He began tap dancing on the streets of Memphis for tips and performed in amateur shows in high school. In the 1940s, Thomas ran his own Beale Street amateur show that attracted B.B. King, Bobby "Blue" Bland and many other performers who went on to become famous.
In 1953, Thomas recorded "Bear Cat," an answer to Big Mama Thornton's "Hound Dog," and it became Sun Record's first hit. That was before Elvis Presley arrived on the scene to become Sun's undisputed star. Thomas complained in later years that Sun's black artists were pushed aside after Presley's success. In the 1960s, Thomas became one of the founding performers for Stax Records, which created what came to be known as "the Memphis sound," with performers like Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Sam and Dave.
Source: Reuters / Updated: Dec 16, 2001