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Posts Tagged ‘Big Jay McNeely’

Died On This Date (January 17, 2012) Johnny Otis / R&B Great; Had Hit With “Willie and the Hand Jive”

Posted by themusicsover on January 17, 2012

Johnny Otis (Born Ioannis Veliotis)
December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012

Referred to as the “Godfather Of Rhythm and Blues,” Johnny Otis was a man of many aspirations and musical talents.  Born and raised in the San Francisco area, Otis went on to become a successful bandleader, producer, songwriter, journalist, talent scout, arranger, disc jockey, vibraphonist, drummer, club owner, merchant, and even politician.  His most popular contribution to popular music came by way of “Willie and the Hand Jive,” which sold over 1.5 million copies, rose to #9 on the pop charts, and has since been recorded by the likes of George Thorogood, Levon Helm, Eric Clapton, Cliff Richard, and New Riders of the Purple Sage, to name just a few.  A child of Greek immigrants, Otis actually lived and worked as part of the African-American community while employing mostly black musicians for his bands.  He began making an impact on music during the late ’40s when he opened a nightclub in the Watts section of Los Angeles.  It was there that he made his first discovery, Little Esther Phillips, who went on to have several pop and R&B hits of her own. Other future greats he is credited for discovering and working with during their early years include Big Jay McNeely, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, Etta James and  Big Mama Thornton, whose signature song, “Hound Dog,” was produced by Otis.  In 1958,  Otis recorded the self-penned “Willie and the Hand Jive” which quickly became a smash with both black and white audiences and went on to become one of the most iconic songs of the era.  A tireless performer, Otis and his band toured the world well into the 2000s.  During the ’60s, he made an unsuccessful run for the California State Assembly.  Many blamed the loss on the fact that he ran under his virtually unknown birth name.  In 1994, Otis was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and in later years, he hosted “The Johnny Otis Show” on San Francisco radio station, KPFA.  Due to declining health, he did his last show in August of 2006.   His son, Shuggie Otis, had hits of his own during the ’70s. Johnny Otis was 90 when he passed away in his home on January 17, 2012

Thanks to Paul Bearer for the assist.

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Johnny Otis

Posted in Arranger, Blues, Club Owner, Early Rock, Musician, Producer, R&B, Rock, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Died On This Date (January 17, 2012) Johnny Otis / R&B Great; Had Hit With “Willie and the Hand Jive”

Died On This Date (July 17, 2011) Gil Bernal / Respected L.A. Jazz Musician

Posted by themusicsover on July 17, 2011

Gil Bernal
February 4, 1931 – July 17, 2011

Gil Bernal was an esteemed jazz saxophonist and vocalist who, over a career that spanned some 60 years, became one of L.A.’s most in-demand session player, and played with a laundry list of the world’s greatest jazz musicians.  Born in the Watts section of Los Angeles, Bernal grew up with future jazz greats Big Jay McNeely and Charles Mingus.  He learned to play the sax as a youngster, and by the time he was in high school, he was playing local neighborhood parties and dances.  And not long after graduating high school, Bernal was touring as part of Lionel Hampton’s band which at the time, included Little Jimmy Scott and Quincy Jones.  He went on to form his own band which included Shelley Mann and Shorty Rogers. As an in-demand session player, Bernal played some of the most iconic sax solos on records by the likes of the Coasters, Ray Charles, Big Mama Thornton, and Duane Eddy.  He also played in Spike Jones’ band for several years.  And if that weren’t enough, Bernal could hold his own as a soulful singer as well.  In 1967, his “The Eyes Of Love,” from the film Banning, was nominated for an Academy Award.  And many of his other records, like “Can You Love A Poor Boy” and “To Make A Big Man Cry” are highly coveted by fans of Northern Soul. In recent years, Bernal was hand-picked by Ry Cooder to work with the Buena Vista Social Club as well as on Cooder’s 2005 release, Chavez Ravine.  On July 17, 2011, Gil Bernal died of congestive heart failure.  He was 80.

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