Johnny Otis
Dec. 28, 1921 – Jan. 17, 2012

Willie and the Hand Jive
#1 in 1958 on R&B Chart
#9 on Pop Chart


Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, better known as Johnny Otis, was born in Vallejo, California, he is commonly referred to as the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues". Otis grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Berkeley, California, where his father owned and operated a neighborhood grocery store. In April 1958, he recorded his best-known recording, "Willie and the Hand Jive", a clave-based vamp, which relates to hand and arm motions in time with the music, called the hand jive. This went on to be a hit in the summer of 1958, peaking at no. 9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and becoming Otis' only Top 10 single. The single reached no. 1 on the Billboard R and B chart. The song was covered by Eric Clapton in 1974, and became a staple of his live repertoire. Otis' success with the song was short-lived, and he briefly moved to King Records in 1961, where he backed Johnny "Guitar" Watson on some recordings. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a nonperformer for his work as a songwriter and producer. Otis died at home in Altadena, California in January 2012 at the age of 90.
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