Rufus McKay of the Fabulous Red Tops at Millsaps | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

Rufus McKay of the Fabulous Red Tops at Millsaps

Rufus McKay, the lead singer of the Red Tops, backed by the Ben Shaw band, will rock the house in the season's sixth Arts & Lecture Series program at Millsaps College Thursday, Feb. 10, at 7:30 p.m. in the Ford Academic Complex Recital Hall on the College campus. Tickets are $10 at the door. 974-1043.

Just say the name, "the Red Tops," and a fan base that stretches from Baton Rouge to Memphis starts dressing for the dance. The Red Tops played high school proms, nightclub dates, and fraternity parties and became a significant cultural icon for the state of Mississippi in the '50s and '60s. Singer Rufus McKay performs with the Ben Shaw Band to bring you nostalgia at its finest. Have you danced to "Suwannee River Rock" or "Hello Is That You?" Just listen and tap your feet, but don't forget your sport coat and carnation.

The Red Tops made their professional debut at the Sequoia Hills Club in Bovina, Mississippi, on June 20, 1953. In the 1950s, '60s and '70s, the Red Tops traveled all over Mississippi and surrounding states, drawing large crowds at all the state colleges and at night clubs, country clubs and African-American high schools.

The band's large repertoire included popular songs such as "I'm in the Mood for Love" and "Sweet Georgia Brown" as well as a number of waltzes, fox-trots, rumbas, sambas and swing selections. The Red Tops' repertoire was so large that the group often played at three or four dances without repeating a number. By far the song requested most often by Red Tops' audiences was "Danny Boy". When Rufus McKay began singing "O Danny Boy, the pipes, the pipes are calling. . . " teary-eyed girls wearing new evening gowns sat down on the floor with their dates to listen attentively to the moving sounds of their beloved Red Tops.

Dr. Walter Jones, a Jackson physician, remembers, "leaning in the shadows of the Delta by the Rosedale Courthouse with a fine satin sheen of perspiration moistening your white shirt, nursing a cool bourbon and coke and going back in to see the fair Delta belles with their mascara running and their somewhat dampened brows from furious dancing coming to attention and standing quietly next to the bandstand to listen to the sounds of Rufus McKay sing 'Danny Boy'."

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