Johnny Otis celebrated his 90th birthday on 28 December 2011 – a true landmark for a man who has given most of his life to music. Ace is commemorating the event with the release of this collection, which together with “The Johnny Otis Story Vol 1” (CDCHD 1312) presents a concise overview of his entire career as a composer, musician, singer, producer, talent scout and songwriter.
“On With The Show” lives up to its title by picking up Johnny’s story from just before where the first volume left off, and carrying it through to the mid-70s – the point at which he stopped releasing new music and began diversifying his talents into cultural, spiritual and political areas. As did other R&B pioneers, Johnny had a lean time in the early and mid-1960s, at least as far as the charts went, but a string of Capitol 45s – including ‘Castin’ My Spell’, ‘Crazy Country Hop’ and ‘Mumblin’ Mosie’, all featured here – offer as good a representation of rock’n’roll as you’ll find anywhere. Many of Johnny’s King recordings are also invigorating, as those in this package will demonstrate. It’s hardly his fault that people were buying Fabian, Frankie Avalon, the 4 Seasons and the Beatles instead.
Johnny gave up recording for a few years before returning with the estimable “Cold Shot” album and the R&B/Pop hit ‘Country Girl’, both featuring the burgeoning talents of his young son Shuggie. They led to a full-on revival of the Johnny Otis Show and to further recordings for Epic, the best of which are featured here.
Things began to tail off again in the mid-70s in the wake of the disco boom. The big band funk of his movie-inspired ‘Jaws’ shows that he could have competed in the disco arena, should he have chosen to, but a man with as many things going on as Johnny Otis didn’t have to compete with anyone, and he just expanded his horizons elsewhere instead. Post-‘Jaws’, Johnny has been a radio DJ, ordained minster, artist, author and many other things. Most people would be delighted to have accomplished a fraction of what he has done. Unfortunately, we can’t all be the Godfather of Rhythm & Blues, but we can all enjoy his work for many years to come thanks to the fine compilations available on Ace and elsewhere.
If you don’t know Johnny Otis but want to start, this collection and the previous volume will serve as the perfect introduction to the man and his music.