Tuesday, July 17, 2018

July: Walking The Dog

Rufus Thomas: Walking The Dog

At this point, Rufus Thomas is probably best remembered for this fun, nursery rhyme influenced song, but it was only one of his hits, mostly novelty dance songs, often about dogs or other animals, in a long musical career that started as a child tap dancer on the streets of Memphis in the 1920s, and included stints in minstrel shows in the 1930s, as a vaudeville performer in the 1940s, as a songwriter, performer and DJ in the 1950s, as a popular recording artist in the 1960s, and he continued to perform and record thereafter, often billed as “The World’s Oldest Teenager” and “The Funkiest Man Alive,” until not long before he died in 2001 at the age of 84.

Thomas recorded for Sun and for Stax, the minister at his wedding was Aretha Franklin’s father C.L. Franklin, he worked for 20 years in a textile factory, he acted in Jim Jarmusch and Robert Altman movies, and he performed with Prince, at the 1996 Olympics, and with the Blues Brothers Band. And his daughter Carla Thomas is considered the Queen of Memphis Soul (and who I missed when I wrote this.)

Pretty much everyone has covered “Walking The Dog,” from the Stones, to the Everly Brothers, to the Flamin’ Groovies, as well as Aerosmith, Roger Daltrey, Bruce Springsteen (in an epic 14 minute plus version), Ratt, The Grateful Dead, and John Cale. And many, many more.  Even in Finnish! But Thomas’ version, with its New Orleans influenced style, and the joy that he brings to the silly lyrics, is still remembered because it is just that good.

And yes, it mentions July.

As I was writing this piece, I thought back to walking our family dog, Strummer, who died back in 2014. In July. You can read more about him, and our relationship, here.

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