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Willie And The Hand Jive

Johnny Otis

Obit of the Day: "The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues"

Johnny Otis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. His influence in music was quite broad from playing and singing (“Willie and the Hand Jive,” 1958), to songwriting (“The Wallflower,” 1955), to discovering new talent (Little Richard, Jackie Wilson, and Etta James to name a few). Otis who was white was raised in Berkeley, California when it was predominantly black. He fell in love with African American culture, especially the music. 

Otis, whose real name was Ioannis Veliotes, also wrote books including Listen to the Lambs, a response to the Watts Riots of 1968. He served as a deputy chief of staff to Rep. Mervyn Dymally, and led the choir at the Landmark Church in his own home - which occasionally featured Ms. James. 

Otis died at the age of 90. 

Random note: Mr. Otis’ son is noted songwriter and performer Shuggie Otis and his younger brother Nicholas Veliotes served as ambassador to Jordan and Egypt under Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

(Johnny Otis: The Capitol Years is copyright of Collectibles Records, 2000)

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