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Johnny Otis The Johnny Otis Story Vol.1 - Midnight At The Barrelhouse (CD)

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  • CDCHD1312
  • 0.1
(ACE Records) 25 Tracks - 1945-1957 - with 20 page booklet. There can’t be many... more

Johnny Otis: The Johnny Otis Story Vol.1 - Midnight At The Barrelhouse (CD)

(ACE Records) 25 Tracks - 1945-1957 - with 20 page booklet.

There can’t be many people who have done more in the name of rhythm & blues than John Alexander Veliotes – Johnny Otis to his friends and fans.

Johnny has packed a lot into his lifetime: author, father, painter, radio DJ, TV host, sculptor, political activist, priest, farmer and much more besides. But whatever he’s known for, it’s the music he’s been making since the mid-1940s that has always endeared him to record collectors and marked him as one of the true originators of R&B.

Johnny turns 90 as 2011 draws to its close, and Ace felt that this momentous occasion should be marked by not one but two CDs in celebration of Johnny’s life and more than thirty years of recording activity. “Midnight At The Barrelhouse” is the first volume, and the repertoire embraces Johnny’s early years as a bandleader through to the peak of his worldwide popularity with his first and biggest Capitol hits. The second volume, “The Show Goes On”, will carry on with more Capitol classics and take us through to Johnny’s 1970s successes on Okeh/Epic and his own Hawk Sound label.

Johnny always downplayed his skills as a vocalist but, as can be heard throughout our programme, his singing was always as enjoyable and recognisable as anyone who ever fronted his band. He can also be heard on drums and vibes throughout the set. Even though he’s not always the featured artist, his role in the creation of each and every one of these tracks is always apparent. Our selections here also showcase the great musicians from his classic early bands such as Pete “Guitar” Lewis and Devonia “Lady Dee” Williams, plus vocalists of the calibre of Marie Adams, Bobby Nunn (and the Robins), Big Mama Thornton and Little Esther. Many of these tracks will be as familiar as family to Johnny Otis devotees, but we have managed to disinter several terrific unissued cuts from the 1950s to gladden the hearts of even the most ardent completist. 

By Tony Rounce

Article properties: Johnny Otis: The Johnny Otis Story Vol.1 - Midnight At The Barrelhouse (CD)

  • Interpret: Johnny Otis

  • Album titlle: The Johnny Otis Story Vol.1 - Midnight At The Barrelhouse (CD)

  • Genre R&B, Soul

  • Year of publication 2011
  • Label Ace Records

  • Artikelart CD

  • EAN: 0029667046527

  • weight in Kg 0.1
Otis, Johnny - The Johnny Otis Story Vol.1 - Midnight At The Barrelhouse (CD) CD 1
01 Johnny Otis Signature Johnny Otis
02 Good Old Blues Johnny Otis
03 Harlem Nocturne Johnny Otis
04 Double Crossing Blues Johnny Otis
05 Midnight In The Barrelhouse Johnny Otis
06 The Turkey Hop Pt 2 Johnny Otis
07 Boogie Guitar Johnny Otis
08 Wedding Boogie Johnny Otis
09 Oopy-Doo Johnny Otis
10 Miss Mitchell Johnny Otis
11 Rock Me Baby Johnny Otis
12 Hound Dog Johnny Otis
13 Robey's Bounce Johnny Otis
14 Every Beat Of My Heart Johnny Otis
15 Cattle Train Johnny Otis
16 So Fine Johnny Otis
17 Like Shortnin' Bread Johnny Otis
18 Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! Johnny Otis
19 The Midnite Creeper Pt 1 Johnny Otis
20 The Midnite Creeper Pt 2 Johnny Otis
21 Tough Enough Johnny Otis
22 Shake It Lucy Baby Johnny Otis
23 Bye Bye Baby Johnny Otis
24 Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me) Johnny Otis
25 Willie And The Hand Jive Johnny Otis
Johnny Otis, Johnny Otis, now billed as the Godfather of Rhythm and Blues, was born in... more
"Johnny Otis"

Johnny Otis,

Johnny Otis, now billed as the Godfather of Rhythm and Blues, was born in Vallejo, California, on Dec. 28, 1921, to Greek immigrant parents, Alexander and Irene Veliotes. By 1940, the big band jazz of Count Basie and Duke Ellington had inspired him to start learning drums, later progressing to piano and vibes. In 1946 he switched from a small boogie-blues outfit to a 16-piece jazz-swing band, signed a contract with Excelsior Records and scored his first hit, `Harlem Nocturne'. The band took off on a nationwide tour with Louis Jordan, Nat 'King' Cole and the Inkspots.

They were later to record with such jazz greats as Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet and Jimmy Rushing. In 1948, Otis opened the Barrelhouse Club in Los Angeles, thus launching the very first nightspot to feature R&B music exclusively. While at the Barrelhouse, he discovered 13-year-old Little Esther (Philips).

Throughout 1950, the pair cut numerous hits for Savoy records, usually billed as Little Esther with Johnny Otis and the Robins (whowere another Otis find). Their first recording, 'Double Crossing Blues', was a No. 1 R&B seller throughout the nation. This was followed by `Mistrustin' Blues', 'Wedding Boogie' and Deceivin' Blues'. At about the same time, Otis saw the potential of a tour-ing R&B review, and so 'The Johnny Otis R&B Caravan' took to the road — again the first of its kind. The package featured several Otis discoveries, including Big Mama Thornton, who was later to cut the original version of Leiber and Stoller's 'Hound Dog,' with Otis in accompaniment.

Even with lengthy tours to contend with, Otis found time to search out new talent. While in Detroit in 1951, he discovered Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and Hank Ballard. A few years later the legendary Johnny Ace joined the Otis package, and quickly became the star of the show. Otis went on to arrange and produce most of Ace's record-ings for the Texas-based Duke-Peacock label, including his smash hit of 1954, 'Pledging My Love'. Little Richard, Etta James, Charles Brown, Johnny 'Guitar' Watson and Sugar-cane Harris are just a few of the other artists he has been associated with over the years. As the Fifties progressed, Otis became more and more aware of the changing public taste in R&B, notably with the introduction of rock'n'roll styles into the music.

By 1957 he had signed a contract with Capitol records in LA, and later that year cut 'Ma (He's Makin' Eyes At Me)', sung by Marie Adams & The Three Tons Of Joy. Shortly after he recorded what was to become his best remembered hit, 'Willie And The Hand Jive'. It was a novelty rock song aimed straight at the teenage market, and the Top Ten, that exploited to the full the now famous 'Bo Diddley' beat. Whether the arrangement was inspired Diddley is open to debate, although Otis insists that he first played by this rhythm — know as 'shave-and-a-haircut, six-bits' — during the early Forties.

The song was later covered in Britain by Cliff Richard. Otis spent most of the Sixties working in a producer-arranger capacity, until 1968 when he and his son, Shuggie, collaborated on a progressive album called Cold Shot. It was a surprise hit and led to a producer-recording contract with Columbia-Epic. By 1970, however, Otis had decided to re-form his original touring show of the Fifties, and has since played a string of successful concert dates throughout America and Europe.


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