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I post a weekly diary of the historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I featured this past week in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....

Sign of the times ....

DAUGHTER-MOTHER? - Lindsay Lohan (in her recent portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor in "Liz and Dick") and Linda Richman (as portrayed by Mike Myers) ...... you know, no big whoop.

   

OK, you've been warned - here is this week's tomfoolery material that I posted.

ART NOTES - the first ever retrospective devoted to the portrait work of Édouard Manet - with works on loan from across Europe, Asia and the USA - will be at the Royal Academy of Arts in London, England through April 14th.

ATTENTION, READERS -  posted last month in this space was this year's quiz from King William's College (a prep school located on the UK's Isle of Man) - with said quiz known as its General Knowledge Paper officially.

It consists of 18 groups of 10 questions - the first section on events 100 years ago, and the last on events of 2012. Each group has a common theme (though perhaps not immediately recognizable) that helps if you can answer at least one of that group's questions - and is among the most difficult general knowledge quizzes on earth (quite British literature-laden, as you might well imagine) in part to being very cryptic.

At this link is the 2012-13 year's quiz if you didn't have a chance to take it.

Well, now the answers are available at this link - and yours truly dropped from 4 correct answers to only 2 (out of 180) this time around.

WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Harvey the Cat - a Scottish kitteh born with no bones in his front legs ... but who is now expected to be walking around on his front paws (in a couple of months) after a total of £3,500 was donated to fund a operation to fix this (rare) birth defect.

CONGRATULATIONS to Kathleen Wynne - who is making history as the first woman (and the first openly gay person) to serve as the premier of the Canadian province of Ontario.

NOT SATISFIED with the referendum that prime minister David Cameron has promised over Britain's membership in the EU: now, the right wing of the Tories is demanding a block on immigration from Romania and Bulgaria in 2014.

IF YOU LIKE THE BLUES do go to see the 79 year-old John Mayall - last night, he and his whippersnapper 50-something bandmates rocked the house in White River Junction, Vermont.

They played some old songs ("All Your Love", "So Many Roads", "Parchman Farm", "The Bear" and "Room to Move") plus some newer ones: at this link is my setlist.  I hadn't seen him and his band since the late 70's, when they performed a somewhat listless show. Not last night; Chicago natives Greg Rzab (on bass) and Jay Davenport (on drums) were on fire, as was guitarist Rocky Athas. Wotta show.

This coming week, they will be in the New York area - at this link is the overall tour schedule.

Reader Requested FATHER-SON? - the late English singer/songwriter Nick Drake..

   
..... and the English film star Benedict Cumberbatch - ("The Hobbit", and soon to portray Julian Assange in a film). Whaddya think?

WHILE I AGREE that a Democrat should have been nominated as Secretary of Defense: given that someone else was, I am becoming more comfortable with Chuck Hagel (as Charlie Pierce has been quite supportive). And seeing this short OpEd essay from Max Cleland - who deserved better than being slandered by the likes of Saxby Chambliss - is another sign.

ART NOTES - a career retrospective of works on paper by Chuck Close - which includes etchings, linocuts, lithographs and screen-prints - will be at the Monterey Museum of Art in California through March 31st.

ALTHOUGH its use has gone way down over the years: groups of people who use carbon paper today include the police, convicts and certain types of craftsmen.

AS SOMEONE WITH a childhood interest in Antarctic exploration, the names Amundsen, Scott and (later) Shackleton became legends to me. If a new biography is successful, there may be a fourth: Sir Douglas Mawson - an Anglo-Australian -  who was not involved in any of the races to the Pole, but endured equally harrowing conditions .... and may have provided more valuable information for scientists than his rivals.

THURSDAY's CHILD is Brook the Cat - a Scottish kitteh who hitched a ride in a van and ended up spending a week in hiding before she was rescued.

CONGRATULATIONS to the English musician Billy Bragg - who has participated in numerous projects such as the Rock Against Bush effort - who has won a BBC Folk lifetime achievement award.

ART NOTES #2 - he may be acclaimed in the art world (and coveted by thieves) but oddly enough, Edvard Munch is starved of recognition in his native Norway, where squabbles have delayed a new museum worthy of his oeuvre.

BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

FRIDAY's CHILD is Elmer the Cat - a Colorado kitteh adopted as a 'barn cat' from a shelter ..... who has turned out to be much more sociable than expected.

......and finally, for a song of the week ............... while he had other offspring who went into the music field, Rufus Thomas did see his daughter Carla become a much more financially successful R&B star than himself. But his influence on the Memphis music scene (as a mentor to performers of all genres) made his influence count ... and this is a family story worth telling.

Rufus Thomas was born in Cayce, Mississippi in 1917, with his family settling in Memphis when he was aged two. He became a tap dancer as a child (which came in handy later in life) and began studies at Tennessee A&I for a semester .... but the Depression made it untenable, and he joined a minstrel group that toured the South in 1936.

He then began work at a textile plant, staying there for the next twenty-two years as his day job. But all along, he remained in the entertainment business, first in 1951 as a DJ at a pioneering station WDIA - black-owned and staffed, but which gathered white listeners over time. He later emceed talent shows at a theater on Beale Street, and it was he who first introduced Riley 'BB' King to the people of Memphis. And he had a #3 R&B hit in 1953 with Bear Cat - an answer record to the Big Mama Thornton hit Hound Dog (which of course Elvis had a big hit with).  

Meanwhile, his daughter Carla Thomas - born in Memphis in 1942 - grew up in a music-laden environment, and was able to join a local (rotating) group of high school singers known as the Teen Town Singers - which featured the likes of Isaac Hayes in the future. She was allowed to join them at only age ten, because the group was sponsored by WDIA .... which, of course, her father worked for. The training paid off because in 1959 (at age seventeen) she sang with her father on Cause I Love You (with her brother Marvell on keyboards). The next year, she had a #10 pop hit with the ballad "Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)".

The early 60's helped launch the career of Rufus Thomas (when he was signed by Stax Records) who never made it big by producing lush orchestrations, or soulful lyrics. Instead, he relied on the sounds of early funk, laced with humor, animal sounds and his childhood dance steps (brought on-stage) .... all of this in middle age. And so he had hits with "Somebody Stole My Dog", "Do the Funky Chicken" as well as "Do the Penguin" and his #10 pop hit in 1963, Walking the Dog - which the Rolling Stones recorded on their first album. And it is believed Rufus Thomas is the first father to have a Top Ten pop hit ... after his daughter had one.

In the early 1970's, he began to change with musical tastes, and began recording a more heavy version of funk, with songs such as "The Push", and "The Breakdown". But when Stax Records folded in the late 1970's, so did Rufus Thomas' recording career. He did remain a performer, releasing a comeback album in 1988, singing at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta and toured the world. One place he performed at was an annual soul music festival held near Bologna, Italy .... and later the amphitheater (where the action is centered) was named after Rufus Thomas.

Rufus Thomas was awarded a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1992, and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001, shortly before his death in December of that year at the age of 84.

Carla Thomas went on to have several hits in the 60's and 70's, including her own answer record to Sam Cooke, "I'll Bring It on Home to You", as well as "Let Me Be Good to You", plus "B-A-B-Y" - which the singer/TV writer Rachel Sweet had a hit with in the late 70's - "I Like What You're Doing to Me", plus Tramp - a duet with Otis Redding.

Like her father, Carla Thomas saw her recording career curtailed after the demise of Stax Records. But she did some recording as late as the 1990's, released a 2002 live album and worked for the program "Artists in the Schools" - to talk to teens about performing careers, and how avoiding drugs and crime was a necessary first step.

Carla Thomas in 1993 was awarded a Pioneer Award by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation for her life's work and - while at age 70 does not tour often - is worth seeing if you can.

While each have more famous songs, let's close with a blues classic: Night Time Is the Right Time - which has an interesting history in itself - and below you can hear Rufus and Carla sing it.

You know the night time
is the right time
To be with the one you love
Oh, my darling
It's you that I'm thinking of

Baby, baby
Baby, drive me crazy
You know I love you
Hold me tight
And I'll make things all right

You know the night time
is the right time
To be with the one you love

 

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