Johnny Otis, the ‘Godfather of Rhythm & Blues,’ Has Died [VIDEO]
Johnny Otis, the ‘godfather of rhythm and blues,’ has died. He was 90 years old. Johnny wrote and recorded the R&B classic ‘Willie and the Hand Jive’ in 1958.
The song’s been covered by George Thorogood:
and Eric Clapton:
It may have also inspired ‘Born to Hand Jive’ from the “Grease” soundtrack:
Otis, who was white, was born John Veliotes to Greek immigrants and grew up in a black section of Berkeley, where he said he identified far more with black culture than his own. As a teenager, he changed his name because he thought Johnny Otis sounded more black.
He once even said, “As a kid, I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black.”
He was a well-known producer and even produced the original recording of ‘Hound Dog’ by Big Mamma Thornton.
Otis was a successful songwriter as well. He penned ‘Every Beat of My Heart,’ which was a hit for Gladys Knight & the Pips.