Shuggie Otis

Band members                             Related acts

- Shuggie Otis -- vocals, guitar, harpsichord, organ, piano, celesta


  supporting musicians:

- Marilyn Baker -- violin

- Gene Connors -- trombone

- Rolice Dale -- violin

- Wilton Felder -- bass, harpsichord, celesta

- Hyman Gold -- cello

- Leon Haywood -- organ

- Stix Hooper -- drums, percussion

- Jim Horn -- sax

- Hank Jerrigan -- sax, flute

- Plus Johnson -- sax

- Ray Johnson -- piano

- Jack Kelso -- sax, flute

- Paul Lagos -- drums, percussion

- Irving Lipschulz -- cello

- Preston Love -- sax, flute

- Richard Mackey -- French horn

- Al McKibbon -- bass

- Bob Mitchell -- trumpet

- Abe Mills - drums, percussion

- Melvin Moore -- trumpet

- Johnny Otis -- keyboards, percussion, celesta

- Willie Ruff -- French horn



- Snatch And The Poontangs




Genre: rock

Rating: 3 stars ***

Title:  Here Comes Shuggie Otis

Company: Epic

Catalog: BN 26511

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG/VG+

Comments: minor cover and edge wear

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 1041

Price: $40.00


I don't know if there is such a thing as pre-destiny, but being born to a musical father probably increases the likelihood you're going to have music in your blood.   That certainly seems to be the case with Shuggie Otis.


Born to blues man/band leader Johnny Otis, Shuggie was supposedly playing guitar when he was two years old and a member of his father's touring band before he was a teenager.  In addition to a wide array of work as a sessions player, in 1969 keyboardist Al Kooper recruited the then-15 year old Otis to provide support on the "Kooper Session" LP.  The resulting publicity brought Epic Records knocking at his door with a recording contract.  


Produced and arranged by father Johnny Otis (who also co-wrote all ten tracks), 1970's "Here Comes Shuggie Otis" proved a pretty impressive debut.  It was e more impressive when you realized that Otis was only 18 at the time it was released.  That said, the collection wasn't the classic collection many folks would have you believe.  I'd argue that father Johnny's influence over the sessions had an adverse effect, essentially serving to dilute Shuggie's talents.   Yes, Shuggie grew up surrounded by the blues and clearly owed his father a great debt of gratitude, but the fact of the matter was the autobiographical 'Shuggie's Boogie' and hardcore blues instrumentals like Gospel Groove'' and 'The Hawks' may have been technically impressive, but simply weren't very exciting.  You almost got the feeling he was going through the motions to make his dad happy.   At least to my ears the album was far stronger and enjoyable when Otis focused his attention on more contemporary genres.   'Oxford Gray' was a fantastic instrumental that managed to cram a dozen genres into a seven minute package.  Perhaps the weirdest track, 'Knowing (That You Want Him) ' sounded like an Everly Brothers tune.  Not only was it totally unexpected, but it was totally charming.  Even better, 'Hurricane' sounded like a prime slice of mid-'60s Motown with a dance ready melody that made it impossible to sit still.  Hard to describe, but the album had the feel of a demo intended to showcase Otis talents across the broadest canvas possible.  Just too hit, or miss to be a classic album, but still one that's well worth checking out.. 


"Here Comes Shuggie Otis" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Oxford Gray (instrumental)   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis - Wilton Felder - Stix Hooper) - 6:53

You have to scratch your head and wonder how Otis managed to miss stardom.  Yeah, he certainly had some self-destructive issues (s there a 18 year old there who would have been able to handle this kind of pressure ?),, but lots of folks who made the big time were/are equally screwed up.  Anyhow, the instrumental 'Oxford Gray' was a nice introduction to Otis' wonderfully fluid chops.  Seriously, where else would you hear a tune that incorporated country-blues, Baroque harpsichord, jazz, rock, and soul influences into a single package ?  It made for a stunning leadoff performance that should appeal to blues fans and rock fans everywhere.    YouTube has a brief promotional interview with Otis where he talks about the song:  rating: **** stars

2.) Jennie Lee   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis - Wilton Felder) - 2:15

Seriously, how could a 18 year old come up with something this good ?   A simply stunning ballad that served to showcase his wonderful voice and sterling acoustic guitar (there's also a top-notch electric solo on this one).  I'm surprised this one wasn't covered by The Brothers Johnson.     rating: **** stars

3.) Bootie Cooler (instrumental)   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) - 2:41

A Stax-ish styled blues number, I'm thinking Albert Collins would have approved of this killer instrumental.   Shame it faded out so early.  rating: **** stars

4.) Knowing (That You Want Him)   (Johnny Otis - Don Aldrich) - 2:35

The Everly Brothers-styled ballad was a complete surprise, but done with the utmost in taste.  My only complaint here was the overwhelming string orchestration (blame his father for that addition).   Sweet.  rating: *** stars

5.) Funky Thithee (instrumental)   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) - 3:15

So yes, that was Shuggie on organ and lead guitar ...   another Stax flavored instrumental, my ears seem to detect a tough of Booker T. and the MGs this time around. Not a bad influence if I may so.   rating: **** stars


(side 2)
1.) Shuggie's Boogie   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) - 4:30

The first minute or two wasn't really a song as much as a spoken word biographical segment and a tutorial covering his musical influences.  The second half of the song was a rather pedestrian slice of electric blues.   The album's first disappointment, though the story about fake moustaches was cute.  rating: ** stars

2.) Hurricane   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis - Wilton Felder) -  2:15

For a guy who had his eyes on rock audiences, 'Hurricane' was one killer slice of Motown-styled soul.   Seriously catchy and commercial !!!   Again, how could an 18 year old be this damn funky ?   One of the album's best performances and should have been a massive hit for the man.    rating: **** stars

3.) Gospel Groove (instrumental)   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) -  4:30

Well, the title was pretty accurate with Otis churning out some of his most heartfelt blues licks.  Hardcore country-blues moves.    rating: *** stars

4.) Baby, I Needed You   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) - 4:00

Maybe because it slowed down the tempo and put the spotlight on Otis' formative voice, 'Baby, I Needed You' was a middling performance.  The core of a good song was there (including some nice electric guitar), but Otis vocals were a bit wobbly this time around.   rating; *** stars

5.) The Hawks (instrumental)   (Johnny Otis - Shuggie Otis) - 2:22

More straightforward blues that simply didn't register with me.  rating: *** stars