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Rufus Thomas’ Niece Pleads Guilty

July 12, 2004

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) _ A niece of Memphis music pioneer Rufus Thomas has pleaded guilty to stealing more than $67,000 from the late singer’s estate.

Marceline Vaughn was sentenced Thursday to six years in prison. She is expected to spend nine months in prison and the rest of the sentence on probation.

Vaughn, 42, also agreed to make restitution for the stolen money.

Thomas, who died at age 84 in December 2001, was one of Memphis’ most colorful and well-known entertainers. Early in his career he was a radio disc jockey and co-host of an amateur show that helped such entertainers as B.B. King get their start.

Thomas made Sun Record’s first successful recording in 1953 with ``Bear Cat.″ He recorded at Sun before Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins and Jerry Lee Lewis began their careers there with producer Sam Phillips.

Thomas was best known for novelty dance recordings such as ``Walking the Dog,″ ``Do the Funky Chicken″ and ``Push and Pull.″

The probate court estimates the assets of Thomas’ estate are worth $470,000.