Air Week: May 1-7, 2017
This week, the Juke In The Back is proud to honor the late, great Johnny Otis. He was a true renaissance man. Otis was a singer, songwriter, drummer, bandleader, talent scout, record label owner and radio / TV show host and that s not everything he did. He was the son of Greek immigrants, growing up in a mostly Black section of Vallejo, CA during the 1920s and 30s. He not only absorbed Black Culture, he became a part of it, changing his last name to Otis in order to sound more black. He went from playing drums at the Club Alabam on Central Ave. in LA to opening his own Barrelhouse Club in Watts in 1947, creating a scene of his own. His first records were made just as the big bands were dying off and the jump combos were rising. Johnny Otis did not interpret rhythm and blues, Johnny Otis WAS rhythm & blues. From his first recordings for Leon Rene’s Excelsior Label in 1945 to his commercial breakthrough in 1949-50 for Herman Lubinsky’s Savoy Label to his great rock n roll success with “Willie And The Hand Jive” for Capitol in 1958, Johnny Otis did more than almost anyone to push Black Music into the mainstream, creating rock ‘n roll. Juke In The Back highlights the early part of Otis amazing career from 1945-1958. It s not an overstatement to say that the music we enjoy today is here because of what Johnny Otis recorded, played and produced in the late 1940s and early 1950s. This Juke is truly The Johnny Otis Show.