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Posts Tagged ‘Big Mama Thornton’

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.

What You Should Own

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Johnny Otis

Posted in Arranger, Blues, Club Owner, Early Rock, Musician, Producer, R&B, Rock, Singer, Songwriter | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Died On This Date (January 8, 2012) Dave Anderson aka Omar Sharriff / Boogie Woogie Blues Pianist & Singer

Posted by themusicsover on January 8, 2012

Omar Sharriff (Born Dave Alexander)
March 10, 1938 – January 8, 2012

Born in Shreveport, Louisiana, Dave Alexander became one of the world’s premier players of Texas boogie woogie piano.  A self-taught pianist, Alexander began performing at his local church at a very young age.  After serving in the US Navy, he settled in San Francisco where he played with the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Muddy Waters, and Jimmy Witherspoon.  In 1968, Anderson began making his own records, including the critically acclaimed The Rattler and The Raven.  He quickly became a popular draw at the biggest blues festivals around the United States and beyond.  On Thanksgiving Day, 1974, Anderson was the opening at the Band’s historic Last Waltz concert in San Francisco.  That same year, he changed his name to Omar Khayam so began performing as Omar Sharriff or Omar the Magnificent.  He released his last album (as Omar Sharriff) in 2000, but continued to perform well throughout the decade.   On January 8, 2012, Dave Anderson reportedly shot and killed himself in his home.  He was 73.

Thanks to Henk de Bruin at 2+ Printing for the assist.

Posted in Blues, Musician, Singer | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Died On This Date (August 22, 2011) Jerry Leiber / Songwriting Legend, Leiber & Stoller

Posted by themusicsover on August 22, 2011

Jerry Leiber
April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011

Jerry Leiber along with partner, Mike Stoller was arguably the greatest pop songwriting team of the second half of the 20th century if not all time.  Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Leiber moved to Los Angeles where he met Stoller in 1950 while the pair were still in high school.  Leiber, a record store clerk, and Stoller, a pianist quickly realized that they shared a love of the blues and rhythm & blues music and immediately began collaborating on songs.  Within the next few years, their creations were becoming hits for singers of jazz, blues, R&B and rock ‘n roll alike.  The list of their early hit songs includes “Hard Times” by Charles Brown, “Kansas City” by Little Willie Littlefield, and “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley by way of Big Mama Thornton.   They also penned “Jailhouse Rock,” “Yakety Yak,” “Stand By Me,” “Love Potion No. 9,” and “Searchin,'” to name just a few.  In 1953, Leiber and Stoller formed their own label, Spark Records where they produced numerous hits including “Riot in Cell Block #9” and “Smokey Joe’s Cafe.”  The label was eventually sold to Atlantic Records where they continued to produce for the label.  After leaving Atlantic during the ’60s, the pair continued to write and produce independently, but also worked for United Artists and later, A&M Records.   Leiber and Stoller are largely credited for taking rhythm and blues music out of the black clubs and spreading it to white America and beyond.  By doing so, they were essentially the first to have what we now call “crossover” hits.  And without a doubt, they were responsible – either directly or indirectly – for the pop music soundtrack of the past 60 years.  Jerry Leiber was 78 when he passed away on August 22, 2011.

Thanks to Craig Rosen of Number 1 Albums for the assist.

Posted in Early Rock, Producer, R&B, Record Label, Songwriter | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Died On This Date (July 25, 1984) Big Mama Thornton / Blues Legend

Posted by themusicsover on July 25, 2010

Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton
December 11, 1926 – July 25, 1984

Big Mama Thornton gave the world two of the greatest songs in rock history, “Hound Dog” and “Ball and Chain.”  And they  would become signature songs for two of America’s biggest rock icons.  Just starting out in the early ’50s, Thornton, along with producer Johnny Otis, worked up a hard electric blues version of “Hound Dog” which was given to her by the songwriting team of Leiber and Stoller.  Her’s being the first recording of the song, she sat at the top of the R&B charts for seven weeks.  Elvis Presley rocked the song up a bit three years later, sending his career into the stratosphere.  Unfortunately, Thornton’s career didn’t take the same path.  She worked consistently throughout the ’50s and ’60s, but was never able to duplicate the success of “Hound Dog.”  And while her career was on an upswing in late ’60s, she wrote and recorded “Ball and Chain” for Arhoolie Records.  The song found its way to the great Janis Joplin who added her own sass to it on stage at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, a watershed moment in her career.  Sadly though, Thornton was again unable to capitalize on the success.  As the year’s progressed so did Thornton’s abuse of alcohol.  By the early ’80s, the once “Big Mama” was but a shadow of herself, weighing less than 100 pounds.  She died of heart and liver problems on July 25, 1984.

What You Should Own

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Hound Dog: The Peacock Recordings - Big Mama Thornton

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Died On This Date (July 3, 1997) Johnny Copeland / Texas Blues Guitarist

Posted by themusicsover on July 3, 2010

Johnny Copeland
March 27, 1937 – July 3, 1997


With Stevie Ray Vaughan

Johnny Copeland was a Texas Blues singer and guitarist who released his first of many albums in 1956.  In his early days, Copeland was very popular along the live circuit, performing with the likes of Big Mama Thornton, Sonny Boy Williamson and Freddie King, but unfortunately that didn’t translate in record sales for him.  In the early ’80s however, Copeland moved to New York City and signed with respected blues label, Rounder Records who went on to release a series of critical and commercial successes for him.  Copeland, along with Robert Cray and Albert Collins won the Best Traditional Blues Album in 1987 for their Showdown!.  Johnny Copeland died on July 3, 1997 of complications from an earlier heart transplant.  His daughter, Shemekia Copeland has carried on the family name as a popular blues performer.

What You Should Own

Showdown! (Remastered) - Albert Collins, Robert Cray & Johnny Copeland

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