Part of a musical royal family, Vaneese Thomas spent her childhood on the vanguard of Black southern musical culture in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father is Rufus Thomas, whose career spanned half a century in R & B recording and radio, and her sister is the chart-topping “Memphis Queen” Carla Thomas. Vaneese lived and breathed the rhythms of Memphis. Steeped not only in the music but in its history, she is an authentic link to the early years of soul and rhythm-and-blues. Her latest CD, Soul Sister Vol. One, is a tour through two decades of seminal soul and a tribute to the original soul sisters who helped shape it.  Vaneese has sung with major artists from Aretha Franklin, Michael Jackson and Sting to Luciano Pavarotti. She has developed educational programs for: the University of Memphis; Bergen and Essex Community Colleges, NJ; Greenwich YMCA, CT; and other schools and organizations.

Vaneese is committed to preserving and passing on the musical traditions she inherited. Her programs recognize the societal significance of soul and rhythm-and-blues, and place the music’s origins and growth within a historical context.


• Musical workshops and clinics that culminate in student performances
• Lectures that include music and personal stories enhanced by video projections
• A full concert – Soul Sister: Celebrating the Women of Soul – by the artist and her band

Workshop & performance activities:

Activities can be customized to the student population but the possibilities include:
• Singers’ clinic: Soul and R & B stylings
• Singers’ clinic: Harmony and background vocals
• Musicians’ clinic: Playing in a rhythm section
• Broad-based student body workshop: Create a “live radio show” WDIA-style
• Music ensemble/choral workshop: Form a Memphis-style band and create a Stax Tribute Concert
• Choral workshop: Create an evening of spirituals and freedom songs

Lecture topics:

• Women of Soul: The Unique Strength, Perseverance and Influence of the Southern Sound Pioneers
• A History of Stax Records: The Cultural Phenomenon of Soulsville, USA
• Memphis and Black Radio: WDIA and the Transformation of the American Sound
• Freedom Songs: A Thematic Exploration of the Civil Rights Movement Soundtrack
• Memphis at the Crossroads: How Rhythm-and-Blues, 50’s Black Culture and the Civil Rights Movement Meet


Soul Sister: Celebrating the Women of Soul is a raise-the-rafters evening of soul and rhythm-and-blues presented by an incomparable performer. It can be presented with smaller or larger band configurations. With her superlative vocal gifts, her warm and compelling stage presence, and her encyclopedic knowledge of the genre, Vaneese draws her audience into the experience of growing up within the Memphis musical inner sanctum. Even while reminding listeners of the harsh realities of being Black in the turbulent South of the mid-60’s, Vaneese shares her belief in the redemptive power of these – and all – songs. One is left with the profound understanding of why this infectious and irrepressible music came to be known as “soul.”

With righteous interpretations of sophisticated soul classics, Vaneese Thomas reminds us: she’s the real deal!

Paul Shaffer