Single Stories: Carla Thomas, “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)”
56 years ago today, Carla Thomas’s classic R&B single “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes)” first entered the Billboard Hot 100, which seems like a perfectly good excuse to pull together a Single Stories piece about it.
Written by Thomas herself when she was all of 16 years old, “Gee Whiz” began its trek to success with the help of Carla’s famous father, Rufus Thomas, who played Carla’s demo of the song for his boss at Satellite Records, Jim Stewart. (Satellite would soon change its name to Stax.) Smitten with the song even in its rough form, Stewart decided that he wanted Carla to re-record the track in order for him to work his magic on it and turn it into a hit. Backed by The Veltones and with a three-piece string section playing behind them, Stewart had Carla give it her all…and damned if she didn’t nail it on the first take.
And in case you don’t already know the rest of the story, yes, Stewart did his part, too: by March, “Gee Whiz” was a top-10 hit, making Carla the first woman ever to hit the top 10 with a song that she’d written herself.