A visit to Memphis’ Stax Records Museum last month sparked an interest in a genre I’ve never paid enough attention: southern soul. To correct my listening flub, I’ve decided to spend some time with the expansive Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968 box set and write about some note-worthy selections. This week: Rufus and Carla’s “‘Cause I Love You.”
Rufus Thomas was a key player in Memphis’ music scene when he released “‘Cause I Love You” with his daughter, Carla, in 1960. Sun Records’ recorded his “Hound Dog” rip-off, “Bear Cat,” which the label was sued for and almost bankrupted Sam Phillips. Thomas was a disc jockey at the country’s first all black run radio station, WDIA, but his popularity soared during his time on Stax Records with the help of his daughter.
When she was 10, Carla spent some time with the Teen Town Singers, a rotating cast of high school vocalists sponsored by WDIA–Rufus undoubtably had some influence in the station’s decisions. Rufus was Carla’s main influence and her stepping stone into the business. “‘Cause I Love You” is her first single on Stax, and the studio’s first hit. Carla would eventually earn the title “The Queen of Soul.”
Like Stax’s first record, the Veltone’s “Fool in Love,” longing for a lost love is this single’s main idea, but the father-daughter singing dynamic changes things up a bit. Carla hasn’t been the best daughter and Rufus ain’t been the best daddy, either, but together they both conclude “everything will be alright” if they’re back with each other. The opening piano sounds like an Jerry Lee Lewis rock ‘n’ roll tune, but the following horn section gives the song the soul that Stax would popularize.