Historic Markers Across Tennessee

Rufus Thomas, Jr.

Marker ID: THC 4E 119
Location: in front of the Pat O'Brien's on Beale Street, Memphis, TN
County: Shelby
Coordinates: N 35° 8.368    W 090° 3.03
  35.13946666    -90.0505
Style: Free Standing **
Waymark: WM35JC


Born March 26, 1917, in Cayce, Mississippi, this legendary entertainer known worldwide, began his career in the 1930s with the Rabbit Foot Minstrel Shows. He was the organizer and master of ceremonies of the amateur shows in the 1940s and 1950s at the Palace Theatre, which stood at this site. From these shows began the careers of many great performers, including B.B. King and Bobby "Blue" Bland.

He had the first hit records for both the Sun and Stax labels. As a popular personality on WDIA, he was the first disc jockey to play Elvis Presley records on a Black radio station. He was the creator of two of the biggest dance crazes of the 1960s, “The Dog" and “The Funky Chicken."

Erected by Tennessee Historical Commission.