Happy 80th Birthday, CARLA THOMAS!

The Stax Museum of American Soul Music would like to wish Memphis Queen of Soul CARLA THOMAS a very Happy 80th Birthday today, December 21, 2022!

We know her as our longtime friend and Stax Records icon, but many younger generations are getting to know her now because, in part, of her recent accomplishments.

Carla Thomas with Valerie June at the 2021 Americana Awards. Photo © The Commercial Appeal.

Last year in 2021, Carla was featured on a song by fellow Memphian Valerie June – the GRAMMY-nominated “Call Me A Fool” from June’s album The Moon and Stars: Prescriptions For Dreamers. She also was the recipient of the Tennessee Governor’s Arts Award, the highest honor the state bestows in the arts. She ALSO was the recipient of the Americana Inspiration Lifetime Achievement Award, presented to her by June.

Carla Thomas with Booker T. & the M.G.’s drummer Al Jackson, Jr. at Stax Records.

Carla’s career dates back to when she was a 10-year-old girl singing for the famed WDIA Teen Town Singers. While still attending Hamilton High School in Memphis, she and her famous father Rufus Thomas came to the fledgling Satellite Records (later renamed Stax) recording studio in an old renovated movie theater on McLemore Avenue and recorded the duet “Cause I Love You,” which was successful regionally, caught the attention of Atlantic Records’ Jerry Wexler, and was the catalyst that changed Stax founder Jim Stewart’s mind from recording country music to switching to rhythm-and-blues.

Carla Thomas with William Bell (far right) and Johnnie Taylor.

In 2018, when Stewart made his first public appearance at the Stax Museum to donate his circa-1950s fiddle that got him started in the music business, he recalled Wexler coming to Memphis in 1961 at the height of the popularity of her top ten song “Gee Whiz” and not one restaurant in Memphis would accommodate their interracial part for dinner. Carla, who was in attendance that night, told Jim how much she loved him. She would later be one of three Stax Records artists to make comments at his December 10. 2022 memorial service shortly after his death.

Carla Thomas at the Stax Museum in 2018 with (L to R) James Alexander, Jim Stewart, Al Bell, and Deanie Parker.

Carla, we love you so much and wish you the very happiest of all birthdays. It is well deserved!