Johnny Otis About
Johnny Otis (birth name Loannis Alexandres Veliotes) was born December 28, 1921 in Vallejo, California. He began his musical career in 1939 as a drummer for the Count Otis Matthew’s West Oakland House Rockers. At the recommendation of Nat “King” Cole and Jimmy Witherspoon, he moved to Los Angeles and joined Harlan Leonard’s Kansas City Rockets.
In 1945 at the head of his own band, he had his first big hit with his rendition of “Harlem Nocturne”. In 1948, he’d opened The Barrelhouse in L.A. exclusively featuring Rhythm & Blues music. By 1950, he had ten songs in the Billboard Best Selling Rhythm & Blues Records list. He soon started being a radio DJ, a career that lasted almost 50 years, which led to a TV variety show “The Johnny Otis Show” in L.A. for eight years.
Otis is credited with discovering such talents as Ester Phillips, Willie Mae “Big Momma” Thorton, Etta James, The Robins (who later became The Coasters), and Jackie Wilson.
He had charted singles from 1948 (“That’s Your Last Boogie”) through 1969 (“Country Girl”).
Johnny has been inducted into the Rhythm & Blues Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. He was dubbed the “King of Rock & Roll” and the “Godfather of Rhythm & Blues”.
He is the father of Shuggie Otis. He died on January 17, 2012.