Thursday, January 19, 2012

Johnny Otis (1921-2012)

“Genetically, I’m pure Greek.  Psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”  -- Johnny Otis
The "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues," Johnny Otis died at the age of 90.  Although of Greek descent, he identified more readily with African American culture and devoted his life to championing black popular music.   He was a great musician, conductor and band leader in his own right, with exceptional eyes and ears for talent, discovering  and promoting such future stars as Etta James, Little Richard, Jackie Wilson and Little Esther Phillips.  He was a remarkable disc jockey too.  I loved listening to "The Johnny Otis Show," on KPFA, where he played an eclectic collection of tunes, from jazz to blues to R&B.  He told wonderful stories about the music and its history, of which he was an integral part, often digressing on a variety topics from progressive politics to organic gardening.  But, ultimately, it was about the music:


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