Sunday, May 18, 2008

Shuggie Otis - Inspiration Information

Guitarist/singer/songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist Shuggie Otis may not be a household name, but his "Strawberry Letter 23" is in the record collections of millions of households.

Born Johnny Otis, Jr. on November 30, 1953, in Los Angeles, CA, Otis' formidable musical talents appeared at an early age. He began his professional career around 1965. He played a guitar solo on his bandleader, father Johnny Otis' 1969 number 29 R&B hit, "Country Girl," on Kent Records. His guitar skills were so adept that during his teen years, he would have to wear dark glasses and strategically apply black ink between his nose and mouth to appear old enough to perform in clubs with his father.

Signing with CBS Records, Otis began recording virtuoso guitar-laced R&B/West Coast blues sides. His first LP was Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis on Columbia.

Shuggie's 2nd album, Here Comes Shuggie Otis was released issued on the CBS imprint, Epic Records in 1970 when he was only 14. His father, Johnny Otis, produced the LP, and co-wrote most of the album. Some of the session players include Wilton Felder, Stix Hooper, Leon Haywood, Al McKibbon, Preston Love, and many others, including a chamber string group.

On his next album, 1971's Freedom Flight, Shuggie wrote four of the album's seven tunes, did all the arrangements, and helped Father Johnny with production suggestions. The senior Otis produced the set and allowed all of Shuggie's "weird" ideas full-reign in production, and he was joined by a host of musicians from the first album, along with George Duke, Aynsley Dunbar, and the backing chorus of Clydie King, Venetta Field, and Shirley Matthews, among others. The LP included the original version of "Strawberry Letter 23," written for Otis' girlfriend, who used strawberry scented paper for her letters to him.

[Sidebar: George Johnson of the Brothers Johnson was dating one of Otis' cousins who gave Johnson a copy of Freedom Flight. Immediately, he liked "Ice Cold Daydream" and "Strawberry Letter 23." The latter song was played at his brother Louis Johnson's wedding during the wedding march. Louis suggested the song to their producer Quincy Jones for an album track. The track's complex guitar solo was played by Lee Ritenour. The Brothers Johnson's cover version sold over a million copies, peaking at number one R&B and number five pop on Billboard's charts in summer 1977. It was on their LP Right on Time, which went platinum, selling over a million copies, holding the number one R&B spot for three weeks and making it to number 13 pop in spring 1977.]

Otis' fourth LP Inspiration Information was issued in October 1974, with Otis playing all of the instruments on jazzy and Latin-tinged R&B numbers. The LP was one of the first releases to showcase the electronic rhythm box then found usually on organs. Along with the title track, the set included such noteworthy gems as "Sparkle City," "Aht Uh Mi Hed," and the lush, string-laden "Island Letter," which also appeared as the B-side of the "Inspiration Information" single.

Later on in the '90s, Otis played with his own band around northern California and toured extensively. His son, Lucky Otis, played bass with Johnny Otis' band. Shuggie Otis is featured in the book Alligator Records Presents West Coast Blues, issued in August 1998 by Milwaukee, WI, publisher Hal Leonard.

Source: Tweaked from the All Music Guide writings of Ed Hogan & Thom Jurek.

Inspiration Information (along with Shuggie's entire CBS catalog) has been reissued and is currently available on CD here. But if you're in the market for vinyl, you can either grab the official 180 gram vinyl reissue here or try your luck sifting thru represses to find an original pressing here.

Featured cut: "Inspiration Information"


Slay'd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
invisiblenigma said...

Thanks Man! The sample Track sounds Great! Can't wait to hear the album!!

Dreamer456 said...

Thanks. Can't wait to check it out.

flo said...

this is great stuff. thanksxnliffaw

Graziano said...

hi there!
im a new in this blog...i found a lot of wonderful stuff in it im goin to be can i know the pass to extract rar??
thanks in advance!

Slay'd said...

Graz, password info is in the right-hand column

Anonymous said...

thanks great album & blog all post

cafecafecafe said...

Thank. I have it. It's a good one. Good choice.

Anonymous said...

thanx for all great blog

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