Personalities | Johnny Otis | Forties | Jazz & Blues
(Drums, vibes, vocals, b. 1921)
John Alexander Veliotes, born in Vallejo, California, started as a drummer and formed a big band in 1945. By 1947, Otis had switched to a seven- or eight-piece group. This was one of the earliest R&B combos to tour; the Johnny Otis Rhythm & Blues Caravan included vocalists Little Esther, Mel Walker and the Robins, and scored 10 entries on the R&B charts in 1950 alone. During the 1950s, Otis worked for record labels as an arranger and producer. He introduced Big Mama Thornton, produced vocalist Etta James and recorded with ill-fated singer Johnny Ace.
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