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Monday, 28 December 2015

Johnny Otis born 28 December 1921

Johnny Otis (born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes; December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012) was an American singer, musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout, disc jockey, record producer, television show host, artist, author, journalist, minister, and impresario. A seminal influence on American R&B and rock and roll, Otis discovered artists such as Little Esther, Big Mama Thornton, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and Hank Ballard and Etta James. Known as the original "King of Rock & Roll", he is commonly referred to as the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues".
Otis was born in Vallejo, California, to Greek immigrants Alexander J. Veliotes, a Mare Island longshoreman and grocery store owner, and his wife, the former Irene Kiskakes, a painter. He grew up in a predominantly black neighbourhood in Berkeley, California, where his father owned a neighbourhood grocery store.
Otis began playing drums as a teenager, when he purchased a set by forging his father's signature on a credit slip. Soon after he dropped out of Berkeley High School during his junior year, Otis joined a local band with pianist friend 'Count' Otis Matthews called the West Oakland Houserockers. By 1939, they were performing at many of the local functions, primarily in and around the Oakland and Berkeley area, and became quite popular among their peers.
Otis played in a variety of swing orchestras, including Lloyd Hunter's Serenaders, and Harlan Leonard's Rockets, until he founded his own band in 1945 and had one of the most enduring hits of the big band era, "Harlem Nocturne", an Earle Hagen composition.
His band included Wynonie Harris, Charles Brown, and Illinois Jacquet, to name a few. In 1947, he and Bardu Ali opened the Barrelhouse Club in the Watts district of Los Angeles. He reduced the size of his band and hired singers Mel Walker, Little Esther Phillips and the Robins (who later became the Coasters). He discovered the teenaged Phillips when she won one of the Barrelhouse Club's talent shows. With this band, which toured extensively throughout the United States as the California Rhythm and Blues Caravan, he had a long string of rhythm and blues hits through 1950.

Otis discovered tenor saxophonist Big Jay McNeely, who then performed on his uptempo "Barrelhouse Stomp". He began recording Little Esther and Mel Walker for the Newark, New Jersey-based Savoy label in 1949, and began releasing a stream of hit records, including "Double Crossing Blues", "Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid Boogie"; all three reached no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. In 1950, Otis was presented the R&B Artist of the Year trophy by Billboard. He also began featuring himself on vibraphone on many of his recordings.
In 1951, Otis released "Mambo Boogie" featuring congas, maracas, claves, and mambo saxophone guajeos in a blues progression. This was to be the very first R&B mambo ever recorded.
Around the time Otis moved to the Mercury label in 1951, he discovered vocalist Etta James, who was only 13 at the time, at one
Johnny Otis, center, with Mel Walker and Esther Phillips
of his talent shows. He produced and co-wrote her first hit, "The Wallflower (Roll With Me, Henry)".
Otis produced the original recording of " Hound Dog" written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller with vocal by Big Mama Thornton, and was given a writing credit on all six of the 1953 releases of the song. As an artist and repertory man for King Records he also discovered Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, and Little Willie John, among others. He also became an influential disk jockey in Los Angeles.

However, he continued to perform, and in April 1958, he recorded his best-known recording "Willie and the Hand Jive", which went on to be a huge hit in the summer of 1958. His most famous composition is "Every Beat of My Heart", first recorded by The Royals in the 1952 but which became a huge hit for Gladys Knight.

In the 1960s he entered journalism and politics, losing a campaign for a seat in the California Assembly (one reason for the loss may be that he ran under his much less well known real name). He then became chief of staff for Democratic Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally. He was also was the pastor of Landmark Community Church. In 1969 he recorded an album of sexually explicit material under the name Snatch and the Poontangs. In 1970 he played at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival with Little Esther Phillips and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.
In the 1990s Otis bought a farm near Sebastopol, California, north of San Francisco. For a time he ran a coffee shop / grocery store / blues club, where one of the featured singers was the Georgia-born singer Jackie Payne. Around this time Otis also founded and pastored a new church, Landmark Community Gospel Church, which held weekly rehearsals in the tiny town of Forestville, California and Sunday services in Santa Rosa, California. Landmark's worship services centered on Otis' preaching and the traditional-style performances of a gospel choir and a male gospel quartet, backed by a rocking band that featured Otis' son Nicky Otis and Shuggie's son, Lucky Otis. The church closed its doors in the mid 1990s.
Otis continued performing through the 1990s and headlined the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1990 and 2000, although because of his many other interests he went through long periods where he did not perform. He was elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. 
He had a popular radio show on KPFA, called The Johnny Otis Show. This show was aired every Saturday Morning, live from the Powerhouse Brewery in Sebastopol. Listeners were invited to stop in for breakfast and enjoy the show live. Alas, the show's frequency deteriorated along with Johnny's health. When Otis moved to Los Angeles, the show stuttered, then stopped completely and now even the Powerhouse has closed its doors. The last real show was August 19, 2006 when Otis and his wife relocated back to Los Angeles.

Otis died of natural causes on January 17, 2012, in the Altadena area of Los Angeles just three days before Etta James, whom he had discovered in the early 1950s. (Info from Wikipedia)


boppinbob said...

For “The Greatest Johnny Otis Show” go here:

01 Shake It Lucy Baby - Johnny Otis
02 Ma (He´s Making Eyes At Me) - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams & The Three Tons Of Joy
03 (Romance) In The Dark - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams & The Three Tons Of Joy
04 Willie And The Hand Jive - Johnny Otis.
05 Bye Bye Baby - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
06 Loop De Loop - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
07 Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Johnny Otis
08 The Light Still Shines In My Window - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
09 Hum Ding A Ling - Johnny Otis
10 Well Well Well - Johnny Otis & Mel Williams
11 Story Untold - Johnny Otis & Jeannie Sterling & The Moonbeams
12 All I Want Is Your Love - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
13 Good Golly - Johnny Otis
14 You Just Kissed Me Goodbye - Johnny Otis & Mel Williams
15 Ring-A-Ling - Johnny Otis.
16 Three Girls Named Molly, Doin' The Hully Gully - Johnny Otis
17 A Fool In Love - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
18 Crazy Country Hop - Johnny Otis
19 Hey Baby, Don't You Know - Johnny Otis
20 I´ll Do The Same Thing For You - Johnny Otis & Marci Lee
21 What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For - Johnny Otis & Marie Adams
22 Willie Did The Cha Cha - Johnny Otis
23 Mumblin' Mosie - Johnny Otis
24 Let The Sun Shine In My Life - Johnny Otis
25 Castin' My Spell - Johnny Otis & Marci Lee
26 Telephone Baby - Johnny Otis & Marci Lee

A big thank you to Redmp3 for the tracks.

For “Johnny Otis – RHYTHM'N'BLUES REVUE” go here:

01 - Johnny Otis - All Night Long
02 - Johnny Otis - Honky Tonk Boogie
03 - Johnny Otis - Mambo Boogie
04 - Johnny Otis - New Orleans Shuffle
05 - Johnny Otis - Midnight In The Barrelhouse
06 - Johnny Otis - Hang Over Blues
07 - Johnny Otis - Blues Nocturne
08 - Linda Hopkins - Living And Loving You
09 - Devonia Williams - I'm Not Falling In Love With You
10 - The Barreleers - Hold Me Close
11 - The Robins - Turkey Hop
12 - Mel Walker - Cry Baby
13 - Redd Lyte - Ain't Nothing Shaking
14 - George Washington - It Ain't The Beauty
15 - Little Richard - Directly From My Heart To You
16 - Mel Walker - Heartache, Here I Come
17 - Mel Walker - New Love
18 - Little Esther & Mel Walker - Mistrusting Blues
19 - Jimmy Rushing - My Baby's Business
20 - Johnny Otis - Hot Jaws
21 - Johnny Otis - Jeff Hi Stomp
22 - Johnny Otis - Good Boogie Googie
23 - Johnny Otis - Barrelhouse Stomp
24 - Johnny Otis - Ultra Violet
25 - Johnny Otis - Harlem Nocturne

A big thank you to Uncle Gil for link.

robijntje said...

Merci beaucoup Bob

krobigraubart said...

Thank you VERY much!