Personalities | Johnny Otis | Fifties | Rock

(Bandleader, singer-songwriter, b. 1921)

Of Greek parentage, California-born John Veliotes topped the US R&B chart twice in 1950 with ‘Double Crossing Blues’ and ‘Mistrustin’ Blues’, both credited to The Johnny Otis Orchestra. After moving from Berkeley to Los Angeles, he supposedly discovered such notable R&B vocalists as ‘Little’ Esther Phillips, Willie Mae ‘Big Mama’ Thornton, Etta James, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Hank Ballard, Jackie Wilson and Little Willie John, as well as The Robins (who became The Coasters), all of whom were featured vocalists in his band. More US R&B hits followed, the first one to cross over being 1958’s ‘Willie And The Hand Jive’ (US Top 10). Cliff Richard covered the song in the UK where Otis was already known for his noisy 1957 UK Top 3 hit, ‘Ma, He’s Making Eyes At Me’, featuring vocalist Marie Adams. A veritable R&B pioneer, the Otis tradition is being maintained by his singer/guitarist son, Shuggie Otis (b. 1953).

Styles & Forms | Fifties | Rock
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Source: The Definitive Illustrated Encyclopedia of Rock, general editor Michael Heatley


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