Before becoming a household name in the 1960s and ’70s, Carla Thomas made records for her dad. During his tenure as A&R man at Stax Records, Rufus Thomas gave his little girl an outlet to sing and record with the Teen Town Singers in 1952 – at the age of 10. By 1962 she’d earned enough clout for Stax to sign her as a solo artist. She earned a few big hits over the first half of the 1960s, namely “Gee Whiz” and “B-A-B-Y,” but it was her 1967 hit “Tramp” that proved Thomas was no one-hit-wonder. It also signaled that she could do more than just soulful ballads; the song’s dirty ode to her suitor was far from the standard female pop fare. I’m not sure how much it helped the overall cause of feminism, but “Tramp” is still pretty freakin’ awesome.
10. “Cause I Love You” – Featuring Rufus Thomas, His Father – 1960 (Released as a Single)
In 1960, Carla Thomas and Rufus Thomas cut a version of “Cause I Love You” for Carla’s first single on Stax. The early single didn’t reach the Billboard Pop charts, but it was a regional hit in Memphis. If you’re looking for some great family harmony, check out Rufus and Carla’s duet on the bridge.
9. Lovey Dovey – Featuring Otis Redding (“Kings and Queens” Album –1967)
Originally recorded by The Clovers in 1954, Carla Thomas and Otis Redding’s version was just as successful on R&B charts as the original song. The two would perform the song together in 1967, but it was until 1968 that it would be released. Unfortunately, Otis Redding didn’t live long enough to witness the song’s success, dying in a plane crash before its release. On the music charts, the song peaked at #21 on the Billboard R&B charts.
8. Gee Whiz (from her Gee Whiz Album — 1961)
“Gee Whiz” was Carla’s biggest hit to date, climbing up to #5 on the U.S. R&B chart and #10 on the Billboard Pop charts in 1961. The song would be featured in her debut album “Gee Whiz.” Produced by Chips Moman, the song has been covered numerous times by the likes of Kathy Young, The Crystals, and the Orlons, just to name a few.
7. A Love of My Own (from the Gee Whiz Album — 1961)
In 1961, Carla Thomas performed this song on the late Dick Clark’s American Bandstand. About a month earlier in May, it had entered Billboard’s Hot Top 100 and peaked at #56 – spending six weeks in the top 100. It also reached #20 on R&B charts- just one instance where a Carla Thomas single charted higher on the Pop charts than the R&B.
6. I Like What You’re Doing to Me (from the “Memphis Queen” Album – 1969)
Carla Thomas is a well-known singer and songwriter who released many popular hits in the ‘70s. One of her most famous songs, “I Like What You’re Doing To Me,” reached number nine on the U.S. Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop charts, peaking at forty-nine on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was released as a single and later included on her 1969 album “Memphis Queen.”
5. Tramp (from the “Tramp” Album – 1967)
When a song is named “Tramp,” you would think it was a rowdy, in-your-face track about being a woman on the prowl. Instead, “Tramp,” however, takes an entirely different twist — even sounding slightly self-effacing at times. Suffice it to say that it’s a true head-turner. “Tramp” is a soul-blues song with funk elements, written by West Coast blues artists Lowell Fulson and Jimmy McCracklin. First recorded in 1967, it became his highest-charting single since 1954’s “Reconsider Baby.” The lyrics are partly narrative about the singer ignoring society’s criticism of him for being unsophisticated: I’m just an old tramp from funky L.A., don’t want to fit into your high-class world so you can laugh at me. “Tramp” peaked at #26 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on U.S. R&B charts in 1967, ultimately ranking it as one of her biggest hits ever.
4. I’ll Bring it Home to You (from the “The Platinum Collection” Album – 2007)
“I’ll Bring It Home To You” may not have been Carla’s biggest hit, but it’s still a solid tune. First released on September 4th, 1962, it was released on the Stax label. This song never charted, but it became a popular tune in Memphis. The song would be re-recorded by Carla for her “The Platinum Collection” album. Originally recorded by Sam Cooke, the song is a call for love. The lyrics are filled with promises of satisfaction, which is what we all want from our life partners- Satisfaction. Carla’s voice is friendly yet informative and casual, conveying an upbeat tone.
3. Call Me A Fool (with Valerie June) (from Valerie June’s album “ The Moon And Stars: Prescriptions for Dreamers” – 2021)
Just when you thought Carla Thomas couldn’t get any cooler, she teamed up with Valerie June to release another banger, “Call Me A Fool,” in 2021. The song peaked at number 24 on the U.S. Billboard Adult Alternative Airplay chart. The latest recording from this dynamic duo has no shortage of steamy lyrics that will take your breath away (and leave lovers gasping). It’s an unlikely pairing. But onstage, Valerie June and Carla Thomas are two peas of the same pod.
2. Knock on Wood Featuring Otis Redding (from the “King and Queen” Album – 1967)
Knock on Wood is a classic folk song about salvation and hope. Originally recorded in 1966 by Eddie Floyd, it became one of the three tracks from his album to ever chart in the top thirty at the R&B Billboard. The collaboration between Otis Redding (singer) and Carla Thomas was released as a single; six months later, their joint effort, King & Queen, would hit the shelves. This time around, “Knock On Wood” topped out even higher than its predecessor in the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs ranking (#8 vs #30).
1. B-A-B-Y (from the “Carla” Album – 1966)
“B-A-B-Y” is one of the two top forty hits from Carla Thomas in her career as a solo artist. The song was released in 1966 and was the leading track from her album “Carla”. It charted at number fourteen on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and number 3 on the R&B/Hip Hop Singles. The lyrics are simple yet sexy. Carla’s voice is sultry and powerful, with a tone that can seduce anyone with a pulse. The song is playful and catchy compared to some of her more serious releases.