R.I.P. Johnny Otis

Been a rough week for the rhythm and blues friends. Johnny Otis and Etta James both passing on. Although as Otis was 90 and Etta 73 and deathly ill we shouldn’t be too downhearted about it. Johnny Otis got up to so much during his career I don’t even know what to write about. He discovered Etta James for one thing, but I already wrote about her just the other day and we’ll get back to Etta tomorrow, don’t worry. He produced Big Mama Thornton’s original take on ‘Hound Dog’ and also discovered Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and Hank Ballard among others, even Little Richard according to some sources. He was also an influential radio DJ and, of course a bandleader. This guy ever sleep? First I heard of him myself was on ‘Watts Breakaway’ which is a great 70’s funk number pretty much and I had him pegged as kinda a sixties soul musician who’d started leading a band an doin’ funk in the seventies. Probably more like his son Shuggie. It was a while before I found out he was ‘The Godfather of R&B’ and had been around forever. Greek by birth he changed his name and declared himself ‘black by persuasion’ having grown up in a largely african american neighbourhood. For some contrast here  ‘Sittin’ Here Drinkin” is a much older tune from the early 50’s. Anyways, he done all kinds of stuff in his career and most everything he done is pretty darn good. So y’all should go check it out is what I’m saying, there’s a world of good music waiting for you there. Late on he got with the good lord himself and founded and led the Landmark community gospel church in California. Far as I know, he never recorded no gospel numbers but I’d love to hear it if he did.

The Watts Breakaway

Sittin’ Here Drinkin’

 

~ by Mumblin' Earl on January 21, 2012.

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