R & B pioneer Johnny Otis
Singer ~ Producer ~ Label exec
birth name: Ioannis Veliotes

Johnny Otis

December 28, 1921, Vallejo, CA ~ January 17, 2012, Altadena, CA

Johnny Otis, who is white, grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and had a deep connection to black culture. He discovered Etta James and Little Richard. Pioneering rhythm-and-blues singer, songwriter, drummer, bandleader and disc jockey Johnny Otis made the kind of conscious life choice early on that few people have the inclination, or circumstance, to carry out. Born white, the son of Greek immigrant parents, and raised in a predominantly black neighborhood in Northern California in the 1920s, Otis decided as a youth that he'd rather be black. ~ Los Angeles Times: Johnny Otis Obituary ~ January 19, 2012 © Los Angeles Times

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December 28, 1974 ~ Billboard Hot 100 ~ #3 (5) Barry White, You're The First, The Last, My Everything ~ #2 (6) Elton John, Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds ~ #1 (3) Helen Reddy, Angie Baby


Leading a band in the late 1940s that combined the high musical standards of big band jazz with the raw urgency of gospel music and the blues, Mr. Otis played an important role in creating a new sound for a new audience of young urban blacks. Within a few years it would form the foundation of rock ’n’ roll. With a keen ear for talent, he helped steer a long list of performers to stardom, among them Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Esther Phillips and Big Mama Thornton - whose hit recording of “Hound Dog,” made in 1952, four years before Elvis Presley's, was produced by Mr. Otis and featured him on drums. ~ New York Times: Johnny Otis Obituary ~ January 19, 2012 © New York Times

Johnny Otis ~ Inducted in the 1994 Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame ~ Bandleader Johnny Otis has been called “the Godfather of Rhythm and Blues.” Over the years he has exhibited an uncanny ear for talent, and by bringing that talent to the fore has served to advance the growth and development of rhythm & blues. ~ 1994 © Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame

Johnny Otis ~ Willie & The Hand Jive ~ Named one of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock & Roll in 1995.

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