Carla Thomas Biography
Carla Venita Thomas is an American singer known as the “Queen of Memphis Soul.” Thomas is most known for her performances for Atlantic and Stax in the 1960s, which included the successes “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)” (1960), “B-A-B-Y” (1966), and “Tramp” (1967), which she performed with Otis Redding. She is Rufus Thomas’s daughter.
Thomas was born on December 21, 1942, in the Foote Homes Projects in Memphis, Tennessee, United States, and is most recognised for her work in the 1960s for both Atlantic Records and, more famously, Stax Records. “‘Cause I Love You,” her debut song, was a duet with her father, with brother Marvell on keyboards, published by Satellite Records, which later became Stax Records. The song, which was recorded while Thomas was still a student at Hamilton High School in Memphis, received enough local prominence to pique the interest of Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler. He negotiated a distribution contract with Satellite Records’ proprietors, Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton, and thus opened the door for Thomas’ most renowned single, “Gee Whiz (Look in His Eyes),” which reached number 10 on the pop chart and number 5 on the R&B chart. While she continued to have R&B chart success throughout the 1960s, her only other solo top 40 pop song was “B-A-B-Y,” which peaked at number 14 in 1966. Her duet, “Tramp”, with Otis Redding reached number 26 on the pop chart the following year.and her album of duets with Otis Redding, King & Queen, was a number 18 hit in the UK Albums Chart.
Speaking of Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes), while finally charting in the Top 10 on the pop chart and the Top 5 on the R&B chart, it had an unlucky start. Rufus pitched the song to Vee-Jay Records in Chicago after recording it at the Thomas family home. Vee-Jay never followed through on his promise to secure the distribution rights. Rufus came to Memphis because he believed in the song’s potential, and in the summer of 1960, Thomas cut the teen love ballad she composed when she was only 15 years old. Rufus and Carla debuted the song in October 1960, to little fanfare. However, thanks to a distribution agreement between Satellite and Atlantic Records, the song was issued nationally through Atlantic in February 1961, just as Thomas was starting her first year at Tennessee A&I University in Nashville. The single’s success catapulted Thomas into the spotlight, and she appeared on American Bandstand. According to Thomas, “The record was young-sounding, romantic and it expressed what a lot of people wanted to say at that age, but still, I was surprised at how well it did”. This song not only launched Thomas’ first album, but it also provided Stax Records nationwide visibility and label notoriety.
When compared to her 1960s musical peak, Thomas fell into relative obscurity after her last Stax song, Love Means…, in 1971, and an appearance in Wattstax in 1972. She was, however, featured in a number of contemporary projects, most notably a 1994 compilation of her biggest songs, a 2002 live recording of a Memphis concert, and the 2007 album Live at the Bohemian Caverns in Washington, D.C., a long-lost live recording of Thomas in 1967. During the 1980s, she would also tour on occasion and became strongly involved with the “Artists in the Schools” programme, which gave Memphis kids access to prominent artists. These courses were designed to educate youngsters about music, theatre, and drug usage. She performed with her father at the Porretta Terme Soul Festival in 1991. In recognition of her career achievements, Thomas received the Rhythm & Blues Foundation’s renowned Pioneer Award in 1993, alongside musical giants like as James Brown and Solomon Burke. She was also included in the 2003 documentary Only the Strong Survive, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival and featured key Stax recording artists. In 2021, Thomas appeared on Valerie June’s single “Call Me A Fool,” which was nominated for a GRAMMY for Best American Roots Song.
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Frequently Asked Questions
What Genre Is Carla Thomas?
How Many Album Of Carla Thomas?
Carla Thomas has released eight studio albums, four live albums, and numerous compilations. Her most recent album, Love Means…, was released in 2008.
Which Is The Biggest Hit Album Of Carla Thomas?
Her album, Gee Whiz, is the biggest hit album of Carla Thomas. It was released in 1961 and reached number two on the Billboard 200 chart. The album was certified Gold by the RIAA in 1962.
What Is The Best Selling Album Of Carla Thomas?