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Friday, January 20, 2012 Written by Jim White
By now, many of you probably know that the legendary R&B musician Johnny Otis died Tuesday at the age of 90.
(As some comments have noted, R&B great Etta James, a Johnny Otis discovery) died earlier today. (Click here: http://anndandridgepublicrelations.ning.com/profiles/blogs/legendar... )
Sadly, the word legendary barely fits his massive achievements, and "musician" is an very inadequate word to describe this singer, songwriter, bandleader, producer and discoverer of a huge roster of R&B talent.
Here's a paragrpah from his New York Times obituary that capsules his 1940s work that established him as a force in the music business:
Leading a band in the late 1940s that combined the high musical standards of big-band jazz with the raw urgency of gospel music and the blues, Mr. Otis played a key role in creating a new sound for a new audience of young urban blacks, a sound that within a few years would form the foundation of rock ’n’ roll.
Here's another obituary from the LA Times that's filled with good information. Otis was a West Coast musician who started out playing drums in the 1940s. He was Greek, but he always declared himself "black by persuasion."
Otis is probably most easily recognized as the creator of "Willie and the Hand Jive," but his musical production went far beyond that, and his influence, even further. Without Otis and his discoveries, a lot of the music we know might be very different.
If his music wasn't enough, the artisits he brought to the stage and the recording studio created another massive legacy. Here are some of the musical greats we can thank Johnny Otis for finding (thanks to the Bob Corritore newsletter for this list):
Esther Phillips, Willie Mae "Big Momma" Thornton, Etta James, and the Robins (who evolved into the Coasters), all of whom were at one time featured vocalists in his band. He also discovered Sugar Pie DeSanto, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Jackie Wilson, and Little Willie John. He produced, and with his band played on the original recording of "Hound Dog" with "Big Momma" Thornton. He produced and played on Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love", and produced some of Little Richard's earliest recordings. On his own Blues Spectrum label, Johnny has recorded and played with Rhythm & Blues pioneers such as Big Joe Turner, Gatemouth Moore, Amos Milburn, Richard Berry, Joe Liggins, Roy Milton, Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, Charles Brown, and Louis Jordan. Johnny played the drums on Charles Brown's first major hit "Driftin' Blues" in 1946. He also recorded with Illinois Jacquet, and Lester Young. One of the many highlights of his long career was when he performed as a drummer with the great Count Basie Orchestra.
In his later years, Otis became a pastor in his own church, worked as a community activist, wrote books, worked in local politics, became a wine producer and once marketed Johnny Otis Apple Juice.
But it was music that satisfied his soul -- and ours. We're all the better for it.
Here are some videos that give an idea of his work:
ETTA JAMES - "At Last" ......(JOHNNY OTIS discovered ETTA JAMES)
Etta James died Friday 1-20-2012 Click here: http://anndandridgepublicrelations.ning.com/profiles/blogs/legendar...
JACKIE WILSON - Higher & Higher...(JOHNNY OTIS discovered JACKIE WILSON)
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