Wednesday, May 4, 2016

The Johnny Otis Show

They called him the Godfather of R&B- he personally had just one hit, but he was no one hit wonder. Ethnically Greek, he was African-American in his heart and soul which is where it counted. Rather than just co-opt black music, Johnny Otis nurtured and shaped it, discovering legendary acts like Jackie Wilson and Etta James. His fingerprints are everywhere in the world of soul. He even wrote Gladys Knight and the Pips' first hit single. His enshrinement in both the Rock and Roll and R&B Hall of Fames was well deserved.


In 1956, he got his own television variety show on Los Angeles' KTTV. An amazing feat considering the time. During the run of the show, he featured some of the biggest names in R&B, backing them up with his own band.


Mr. Otis never forgot his roots, however, returning to his hometown of Berkeley to perform at the Berkeley Jazz Festival. Never comfortable with having the attention focused on himself, Johnny Otis continued to highlight other performers even in his later years. He never gained the fame of those he championed, but then again, he didn't really want to. His ultimate goal with his television show and everything else he did was to put a spotlight on the music he loved. And he succeeded beyond his wildest dreams.