The Johnny Otis Story, Vol. 1: Midnight at the Barrelhouse (1945-1957)

The Johnny Otis Story, Vol. 1: Midnight at the Barrelhouse (1945-1957)

by Johnny Otis


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The Johnny Otis Story, Vol. 1: Midnight at the Barrelhouse (1945-1957)

Although universally recognized as an important figure in mid-20th century rhythm & blues, Johnny Otis did not make the most consistent records, whether he was the featured artist/singer or involved in more of a production capacity. This first volume of a two-part career overview compiles some of the more significant entries in his discography (a massive one if you count his productions), yet doesn't leave the impression that he was one of the greatest R&B artists of the just-post-World War II era, at least as far as his recorded output was concerned. Some of these 25 tracks are in fact exciting bridges between R&B and rock & roll, mixing in some jazz and jump blues, even if the material doesn't settle on much of an identifiable style. Others are rather routine period R&B, and the most memorable cuts tend to be ones by artists other than Otis, such as Big Mama Thornton's landmark original version of "Hound Dog" (from 1953); the Sheiks' 1955 version of "So Fine," which became a doo wop smash for the Fiestas at the end of the '50s; and the Royals' "Every Beat of My Heart," which became Gladys Knight & the Pips' first hit in the early '60s. Other original versions of note are Otis' own 1956 single "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" (covered by Little Richard and then, yet more famously, the Beatles as part of a "Kansas City"/"Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" medley) and his 1957 single "Tough Enough" (featuring vocals by the group the Jayos, and later covered by both Cliff Richard and the Guess Who). In all honesty, however, none of these originals are as good as the most famous covers, and "Tough Enough" -- a peppy doo wop number in this incarnation -- is almost unrecognizable compared to the heavily rocked-up renditions by Richard and the Guess Who. Considering he was a veteran with almost 15 years of recording experience by the time Otis went rock & roll with the Bo Diddley-like Top Ten hit "Willie and the Hand Jive" (which closes this compilation) in 1958, it seems foolish to suggest that it took that long for him to hit his stride as a recording artist. The fact remains, though, that it's the best thing (other than perhaps Thornton's "Hound Dog") by far on this anthology, which doesn't quite satisfy as a convincing document of a major innovator, though it does offer a wide sampling of the range of styles he helped along on disc in his early years.

Product Details

Release Date: 09/06/2011
Label: Ace Records Uk
UPC: 0029667046527
catalogNumber: 6704652
Rank: 52757

Album Credits

Performance Credits

Johnny Otis   Primary Artist,Vocals
Robins   Vocals
Jimmy Beasley   Piano
Marie Adams   Vocals
Little Esther   Vocals
Mel Walker   Vocals
Preacher Lee Graves   Vocals
Jayos   Vocals

Technical Credits

Johnny Otis   Arranger,Composer
Jerry Leiber   Composer
Ralph Bass   Composer
Con Conrad   Composer
Maxwell Davis   Composer
Pete "Guitar" Lewis   Composer
Mike Stoller   Composer
Tony Rounce   Liner Notes
Sidney Clare   Composer
Jessie Mae Robinson   Composer
Traditional   Composer
Kenneth Pope   Composer
Phyllis Otis   Composer
Earle Hagen   Composer

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