b. Carla Thomas, 21st December 1942, the Foote Homes Housing Project, Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.A.
The daughter of Soul singer Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas is a fine Soul songstress in her own right, earning her the mantle of the 'Queen Of the Memphis Sound'.
Born in Memphis in 1942 to Rufus and Lorene Thomas, Carla is one of three siblings, herself, Marvell and Vaneese.
Her sister, Vaneese Thomas, has become a highly rated vocalist in her own right.
Carla's family lived near to the, relatively affluent, Palace Theater in Memphis, despite being born in the poorer Foote Homes Housing Project.
Rufus was the Master Of Ceremonies at the theater, hosting the amateur shows at the venue.
The local radio station WDIA sponsored a group of students called the Teen Town Singers, whose line-up varied from time to time, and featured the likes of Anita Louis and Isaac Hayes on occasions.
Carla became a member of the ensemble in 1952 at the age of 10, four years younger than the specific age usually, but helped in no small part by her fathers involvement with the station.
carla at 13 years old
Within the ranks of the group, Carla had additional scholarly requirements, unlike many of the other children, due to her age.
Carla remained part of the Teen Town Singers up until the end of her senior year.
cause i love you - 1960 / gee whiz - 1960
I inspired by Jackie Wilson and the songstress, Brenda Lee, her first record, 'Cause I Love You' b/w 'Deep Down Inside' was a duet with her father, which saw the light of day on the Satellite Records imprint (a label later to become part of the Stax Records set-up) in 1960.
The song was recorded when Carla was still attending Hamilton High School in Memphis.
Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records took an interest in the song at this time.
Satellite was owned by the future owners of Stax, namely Jim Stewart and Estelle Axton (following the departure of Fred Byler and Neil Herbert from the label).
'I'll Bring It On Home To You' b/w 'I Can't Take It' (an answer song to the Sam Cooke classic in 1962), 'What A Fool I've Been' b/w 'The Life I Live' (in 1963) and 'How Do You Quit (Someone You Love)' b/w 'The Puppet' (in 1965) then followed.
'Cause I Love You' led to her recording one of her most famous songs seeing the light of day, namely 'Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)' b/w 'For You', which eventually reached the Top 10 on the pop chart and Top 5 on the R&B chart.
Penned by Carla when she was 16 years old, the song was recorded at the Thomas family home, whereupon Rufus attempted to garner interest from Vee-Jay Records in Chicago .
Nothing transpired, however the tune was to see later success in 1960 at Atlantic Records, which subsequently led to a performance on American Bandstand.
'Gee Whiz' was later released in a Christmas format in 1962, under the title 'Gee Whiz, It's Christmas' b/w 'All I Want For Christmas Is You'.
gee whiz - 1961 / comfort me - 1966
Carla recorded for Stax Records in 1964 releasing seven album between that time and 1971, albums which included her duet release with Otis Redding, entitled 'King and Queen' (a nod to their recording stature in the Memphis area, featuring their version of the 1966 Lowell Fulson's song, 'Tramp').
Her first Stax recording was a duet with her father entitled 'That's Really Some Good' b/w 'Night Time Is The Right Time' in 1964.
king and queen - 1967 / the queen alone - 1967
Carla recorded several sides with Otis Redding, which included the aforementioned 'Tramp', along with their take on the Eddie Floyd song 'Knock On Wood', 'Lovey Dovey', and 'When Something Is Wrong With My Baby'.
carla with otis redding and booker t.
After Otis was tragically killed, she teamed up with other Stax artists including William Bell ('I Can't Stop' in 1969 and 'Leave The Girl Alone' in 1970), and Johnnie Taylor ('Keep On Loving Me' in 1969).
memphis queen - 1969 / love means - 1971
After her last Stax album recording in 1971, 'Love Means', Carla's output slowed considerably, although she recorded a couple of 45's for the label, including 'You've Got A Cushion To Fall On' in 1972, 'Sugar' in 1972, 'I May Not Be All You Want' in 1972, and 'I Have A God Who Loves' in 1973.
Carla remained with Stax Records until its bankruptcy in 1975.
the best of carla thomas - 1969 / gee whiz: the best of carla thomas - 1994 / live in memphis - 2002 / live at the bohemian caverns - 2007
After a fairly quiet 1980's, she did release material in the Nineties and the following years including a 1994 compilation of her greatest hits, a 2002 live recording of a Memphis performance and the 2007 release 'Live at the Bohemian Caverns'.
Carla, additionally, involved her time working for the 'Artists in the Schools' program which provided Memphis schoolchildren with access to successful performers thus helping them keep themselves away from negative activities.
She was also featured in the 2003 documentary, 'Only the Strong Will Survive' that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival and showcased various Stax recording artists.
Gee Whiz (Atlantic Records 1961)
Carla (Stax Records 1966)
Comfort Me (Stax Records 1966)
with Otis Redding:
King And Queen (Stax Records 1967)
The Queen Alone (Stax Records 1967)
Memphis Queen (Stax Records 1969)
The Best Of Carla Thomas (Stax Records 1969)
Love Means Carla Thomas (Stax Records 1971)
Carla Thomas (Castle Records 1994)
Gee Whiz (The Best Of Carla Thomas) (Rhino Records 1994)
Live In Memphis (Memphis International 2002)
Live At The Bohemian Caverns (Stax Records 2007)