MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Memphis music icon Marvell Thomas is being remembered by family, friends and fans. He died Monday after a sudden undisclosed illness. He was 75.
If Memphis and Stax Records had a first family of soul music, many would likely say it would be the Thomas family. There was patriarch and soul legend, Rufus Thomas, known for Walking the Dog and the Funky Chicken. But there was also his children: daughters and soul icon Carla Thomas and recording artist Vaneese Thomas and their brother Marvell Thomas on the keyboards.
Marvell Thomas was a respected keyboardist, producer and arranger.
Throughout the years, he was always in demand for recording sessions and he performed overseas and many times with his family at the Porretta Soul Festival in Italy.
In 2015, Thomas talked to WREG's Alex Coleman about Porretta paying tribute to Memphis artists such as himself, along with Rufus and Carla Thomas and others.
"The festival is billed as the Porretta Soul Festival, a tribute to Otis Redding. It took off slowly, but after four years it took off considerably all over the world," Marvell Thomas said.
Thomas played on many of Stax Records biggest hits and with artists such Johnnie Taylor, the Staple Singers, Etta James and Isaac Hayes on the classic "Hot Buttered Soul" album.
Thomas wasn't just known just for his music, but also being outspoken about what he felt was the 'lack of respect' Memphis musicians received here at home as opposed to in other cities.
"People in Memphis don't have a clue of the music history of Memphis, Tennessee. People in Porretta did. We walked in the door with an appreciative fan base," Thomas said.
His family issued a statement that reads, "To us, he was our husband, father, and brother. He has left a rich musical legacy to be enjoyed by all."
Funeral services are still incomplete.