KXCI’s own Cecily sat down with Shuggie Otis for this interview in anticipation of his KXCI Presents! concert Saturday, June 6th, at The Rialto Theatre.
“Οne of the mythical musicians of Blues, Soul, & Rock history”
Born in Los Angeles, Shuggie Otis is the son of rhythm and blues pioneer, musician, bandleader, and impresario Johnny Otis. Shuggie Otis, primarily known as a guitarist and songwriter, also sings and plays a multitude of other instruments. While growing up with and being heavily influenced by many blues, jazz and R&B musicians in his father Johnny’s immediate circle, Otis began to gravitate towards the popular music of his generation such as Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix, and Arthur Lee.
In 1969, Al Kooper asked Otis to be the featured guest on the second installment of the Super Session album series. Otis then released his first solo album later that year entitled Here Comes Shuggie Otis on Epic Records when he was only 15 years old. This further established his reputation and catapulted him to the attention of B. B. King, who was quoted in a 1970 issue of Guitar Player magazine saying Otis was “his favorite new guitarist”. Some of the artists Otis performed and recorded with during that time include Frank Zappa, Etta James, Eddie Vinson, Richard Berry, Louis Jordan, and Big Mama Thornton, among many others.
The album Otis received the most notoriety for was his second Epic Records release in 1971, Freedom Flight, which featured his hit “Strawberry Letter 23″ (this was also a huge hit for the Brothers Johnson). Shuggie Otis has always been sort of an enigma; although he recorded some of the best albums of the early 70’s he never toured to support them, and then seemed to disappear altogether in the 80’s.
This tour will mark the first performance for Shuggie Otis in Tucson. The photo is of Shuggie Otis at the 1986 Blues Festival KXCI Broadcast with Ruby and Paul, which Shuggie played in 1986 with his father, Johnny Otis.