Shuggie Otis

Shuggie Otis
Unsung Heroes of Blues Guitar

By Peter Parcek
February 2012

There are individuals in each genre who seem to defy the laws of time and experience to excel beyond their years. We refer to these individuals as prodigies. One such blues prodigy is the great Shuggie Otis. I first heard Shuggie on an album called Cold Shot by his father Johnny Otis, a brilliant singer, bandleader and author in his own right. That album and its X-rated companion, Snatch & the Poontangs, featured remarkably mature and nuanced virtuoso blues playing by the young Shuggie.

The legendary keyboardist and bandleader Al Kooper featured Otis on a follow-up to his Super Session album with Michael Bloomfield and Stephen Stills entitled Kooper Session: Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis. This record contained a number of highlights including "12:15 Slow Goonbash Blues" and "Shuggie's Shuffle," proving that Shuggie could improvise in a seemingly unending creative stream. Shuggie appeared to have everything that a young virtuoso needed: tone, touch, ideas, dynamics, chops, velocity, intensity and emotional content.

Here Comes Shuggie Otis - Shuggie's first solo record - also has numerous blues guitar gems including "Shuggie's Boogie," wherein the young Otis accurately portrays many of his formative influences on the guitar and then proceeds to make his own distinctive, individual statement.

Shuggie went on to complete two masterworks, Freedom Flight and Inspiration Information, that revealed the depth and breadth of his far reaching musical genius. Both records have in later years been "re-discovered" and are considered highly influential and lauded by musical greats like Prince. Blues guitar is always present on these records but other influences abound, as Otis appears as a brilliant and individual admixture of Sly, Hendrix, Arthur Lee and others. Freedom Flight yielded the smallish hit “Strawberry Letter 23" for Otis, which later turned into a smash hit by the Brothers Johnson produced by Quincy Jones.

Shuggie Otis has continued to write and perform in the years since these records with a more reclusive profile.

Thank you Shuggie Otis for your brilliant contributions to the lineage of blues guitar.

For more information on Shuggie Otis check out his Wikipedia entry

Here's a youtube video of to Shuggie Otis performing w/ Al Kooper

Here's another youtube video of Shuggie performing "Shuggie's Boogie" from Here Comes Shuggie Otis

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