0104: “B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas

Carla Thomas is music royalty in Memphis. Her father was Rufus Thomas, who was a huge presence in Memphis as a DJ and a master of ceremonies before becoming an artist on the Satellite and Stax Records labels. She sang duets with Otis Redding before his sudden death. She caught the attention legendary Atlantic A&R man Jerry Wexler while in high school. She is to Memphis what someone like Professor Longhair or Clifton Chenier was to New Orleans, a regional treasure that many tourists would probably be unfamiliar with. Her most recognizable song is probably “Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes)”—which helped catapult Stax to a national level in 1960—but I think her best single was the one co-written by two other Memphis institutions, Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter: “B-A-B-Y.” Because it was a single recorded at Stax, the backing band is Booker T. & the M.G.’s which means that Steve Cropper’s blues rhythm guitar is on point and perfect and Booker T. Jones’s wizardry is on display. Jones starts out playing piano with a nice fluid movement and he also plays an organ that skates and flourishes in a old school night club kind of way. Add in some horns and Thomas’s playful, soulful, flirty way of singing “baby” and “I can’t stop loving you” and you have a sub-three minute gem from the late ’60s Memphis scene.

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2 thoughts on “0104: “B-A-B-Y” by Carla Thomas

  1. Gee Whiz may have been the bigger hit (#10 v #14), but I think B-A-B-Y had the greater impact; it went gold, so it lingered on the pop charts longer (16 weeks v 14). And it’s the one I’m more likely to hear on the oldies stations. I think it’s the post-Beatles invasion, Motown breakthrough of 1964 raised all the profiles of the songs that came out after that point.

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