In the 1950s, she wrote her first hit. In the '60s, she played Queen to Otis Redding's King of Memphis Soul. And in the '70s, she stopped recording. But in the '90s, she could still be found on stage, belting out classic, Stax-style laments (amid Top-40 pabulum like "I Will Always Love You") in her sassy, commanding voice. The daughter of novelty dance number master Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas is often damned with faint praise -- cited in footnotes as the artist responsible for Stax (then called Satellite) Records' first hit, or described as a reliable performer who stopped just short of true greatness. Don't be fooled -- just go listen to Thomas doing battle with Otis on "Tramp." It takes a special kind of power to duet with the master and sound like you're the one who can tame him. Her voice is a thing of beauty, an instrument that can be gritty or graceful, shy or strong, mocking or deadly earnest. She really is royalty.