Johnny Otis dies at 90; R&B singer wrote 'Willie and the Hand Jive'
Johnny Otis, (wiki) who is white, grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and had a deep connection to black culture. He discovered Etta James and Little Richard.
He wrote the song that became James' first charting hit — vaulting her to No. 1 on the R&B chart in 1955 — with "The Wallflower," popularly known as "Roll With Me Henry." It was a female-centric response to Ballard's sexually charged hit "Work With Me Annie" that raised eyebrows for its frankness.
Then he came up with a variant on Bo Diddley's signature 1955 hit "Bo Diddley" using the same five-count "shave-and-a-haircut, two-bits!" beat and created a smash of his own in "Willie and the Hand Jive." It's been recorded dozens of times by a wide variety of musicians, most notably by Eric Clapton in 1974.
Otis wrote other R&B hits, including "So Fine," "Double Crossing Blues" and "All Nite Long," and produced early recordings for Little Richard, Big Mama Thornton and Johnny Ace.
"Today's musicians are better technically," Otis said in 1979, "but that's not a virtue in itself. What's important is the emotional impact.... Most rock or disco today doesn't stir up anything in my heart — not the way a Picasso does, not the way the blues or gospel does."
There are lots of videos of "Willie and the Hand Jive" but I like the dancing in this one. Shot in New York in '58.
Thanks to TheTomMunday.
So long, Johnny O.