Godfather of Rhythm and Blues Johnny Otis Dies

01/23/2012
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(Gibson) Songwriter and bandleader Johnny Otis, whose 1958 hit, "Willie and the Hand Jive," was covered by Eric Clapton on the latter's 461 Ocean Boulevard album, has died at age 90.

Dubbed "The Godfather of Rhythm and Blues," Otis formed his first band in the mid-'40s and scored his first big hit with the song, "Harlem Nocturne." In addition to having his own chart successes, he composed Etta James' first hit, a song titled "The Wallflower," which charted in 1955.

He also penned the 1961 Gladys Knight and the Pips hit, "Every Bit of My Heart," and produced the original version of "Hound Dog" in 1952, four years before Elvis Presley made the song famous. Otis also served as a talent scout for vintage rhythm and blues labels, an occupation that saw him discover or advance the careers of such figures as Little Esther, Big Mama Thornton and Jackie Wilson. Otis continued to tour well into his 70s, even as he become an ordained minister and opened a church in Los Angeles. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994. more on this story

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