Despite the name I can assure you all that Shuggie Otis is not a soul loving Scot, (the name “Shuggie” actually derives from the meaning “short for sugar” deemed appropriate by his mother when he was born), he is however the son of Johnny Otis and inherited his father’s multi-instrumentalist skills which he would from an early age display with a high ability landing him with a “teenage protegé” reputation to live up to playing with his father’s band from the age of twelve and not long after being asked to join the legendary Al Koopers band, appearing on the album “Kooper Session”
Kooper and the then-fifteen-year-old Otis recorded “Kooper Session” in 1970 over one weekend in New York.
Otis then released his first solo album later that year entitled “Here Comes Shuggie Otis” on Epic Records.
Countless musicians were his guests on this debut attempt, including Johnny, Leon Haywood, Al McKibbon, Wilton Felder, & many others. This further established his reputation & catapulted his fame into the attention of B. B. King, who was quoted in a 1970 issue of Guitar Player magazine admitting Otis was “his favorite new guitarist”.
Some of the artists Otis performed & recorded with during that time include Frank Zappa (having played electric bass on “Peaches en Regalia” on the album “Hot Rats”), Etta James, Eddie Vinson, Richard Berry, Louis Jordan, & Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, among many others.
His second album “Freedom Flight” is perhaps his best known work given it contains his “hit” single “Strawberry Letter 23”.
The reissue of 1974’s audacious “Inspiration Information” a couple of years ago, on David Byrne’s Luaka Bop Records, suddenly brought Shuggie Otis to a new audience.
The re-release is the most readily available recordings available and as well as new art work featured an additional nine tracks from the previous “Freedom Flight” album.
Given that there has been to date no further Shuggie Otis releases, he did continue to feature on his father’s recordings, the question that arises is how had this teenage modernist, an obvious precursor to Prince and Andre 3000, and one who had rejected the opportunity to join the Stones when Mick Taylor left, fallen out of view?
The answer is by choice as he chose simply to fade into obscurity, often in self-imposed seclusion like Brian Wilson, Peter Green and Syd Barratt for once it seemed it was better to fade away rather than burn out.
As of recently, Otis was heard in an exclusive radio interview claiming his extremely long-awaited fourth album (as yet untitled) will be released sometime in the year 2011 on his own recording label. Also, all tracks were composed, arranged, & recorded by Otis himself.
I wouldn’t hold your breath.
To buy the music of Shuggie Otis click HERE
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