Otis – the son of rhythm and blues pioneer Johnny Otis – is as close to a living legend as you can get. A bass and guitar whiz who recorded his first album with session supremo Al Kooper and appeared on Frank Zappa’s Hot Rats, both in 1969, when he was 15, he was considered the heir apparent to Jimi Hendrix. As a multi-instrumental polymath flitting between genres and experimenting with drum machines, he was the peer of Sly Stone and Stevie Wonder and a precursor to Prince. He was rock’s most wanted, declining offers to join the Rolling Stones, David Bowie and Blood, Sweat & Tears, and an invitation to collaborate with Quincy Jones.
He was wilful enough to pursue his own path, but it was worth it: three albums of baroque ballads, paisley funk, celestial blues and proto-electronic pop followed. His self-titled 1970 debut preceded 1971’s Freedom Flight, which featured the ravishing Strawberry Letter 23, a song that has, he admits, “kept me alive all these years”: it was a hit in 1977 for the Brothers Johnson, used by Quentin Tarantino for the Jackie Brown soundtrack and sampled in 2003 by Beyoncé. Third and best was 1974’s self-produced magnum opus Inspiration Information, hailed today as a lost classic.
Back with new music and a new show – we can’t wait to hear Shuggie do his thing once again!