Willie and the Hand Jive
#1 in 1958 on R&B Chart
#9 on Pop Chart
Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes, better known as
Johnny Otis, was born in Vallejo, California, he is commonly referred to
as the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues". Otis grew up in a
predominantly black neighborhood in Berkeley, California, where his
father owned and operated a neighborhood grocery store. In April 1958,
he recorded his best-known recording, "Willie and the Hand Jive",
a clave-based vamp, which relates to hand and arm motions in time with
the music, called the hand jive. This went on to be a hit in the summer
of 1958, peaking at no. 9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and becoming Otis' only
Top 10 single. The single reached no. 1 on the Billboard R and B chart.
The song was covered by Eric Clapton in 1974, and became a staple of his
live repertoire. Otis' success with the song was short-lived, and he
briefly moved to King Records in 1961, where he backed Johnny "Guitar"
Watson on some recordings. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of
Fame in 1994 as a nonperformer for his work as a songwriter and
producer. Otis died at home in Altadena, California in January 2012 at
the age of 90.
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