This Week's Answer

Sparks Of Insanity By Vinny "Bond" Marini Wednesday, January 17, 2007

The Answers for This Week:
ARTIST: Shuggie Otis
SONG: Freedom Flight
ALBUM: Freedom Flight
Shuggie Otis - Guitars
Richard Aplanalp - Tenor Sax & Oboe
Wilton Felder - Bass
George Duke - Electric Piano & Celeste
Aynsley Dunbar - Drums

THE COUCH would like to point out two of the artists.
George Duke is a pioneer in the fusion of jazz and rock.. Please go read about him HERE.
Aynsley Dunbar is one of the most recorded drummers in our life time. Please go read about him HERE.

Now... The Shuggie Otis Story:

Today’s musical artist is known as Shuggie Otis. Shuggie is the son of the great musician and bandleader Johnny Otis. One source shows his birth name as Johnny Otis, Jr. however when dad ran for the California Assembly in the 1960’s he ran under his birth name John Veliotes, so most like Shuggie’s real name is John Veliotes, Jr.

What makes this story so special?

Well Shuggie was born in 1953. He was playing in his dad’s band at TWELVE YEARS OLD! They used to make him wear a hat and either a false mustache or they would draw a mustache on him so he could play in the nightclubs.

At 15 years old, Shuggie was introduced to the world on the 1969 CBS release; "Al Kooper Introduces Shuggie Otis". That same year he played a guitar solo on his dad’s #29 R&B hit, “Country Girl”, which was issued on Kent Records.

In 1970 Epic Records released "HERE COMES SHUGGIE OTIS", produced by Johnny Otis, Sr. The album garnered rave reviews for the innovative guitar work and sound

This album holds up 30-years later, and if you can find a copy gives it a listen, especially “Oxford Gray,” a piece of artwork put on vinyl (not found at best Audio Codes).

Shuggie is credited with writing 6 of the songs alone and the other four in partnership. This is still at 17 years old. He also plays almost all of the instruments on the album.

The following year the album "FREEDOM FLIGHT" was released. This is the album that contains our featured song today, as well as the song most consider the ultimate Shuggie Otis composition “Strawberry Letter 23.” This song became a #1 Billboard R&B and #5 Billboard Pop Chart hit for The Brothers Johnson in 1977. Shuggie’s version…pure genius. He plays every instrument on this song. We are including it here for your listening pleasure.

In 1974 Shuggie release the masterpiece "INSPIRATION INFORMATION". Dad once again produced the album and Shuggie wrote or co-wrote all but one of the seven songs and played all of the instruments. This album is also one of the first releases to feature the "electronic boom box.”

Many consider this an album too far ahead of it’s time. It took Shuggie so long to record it, that his record label dropped him before its release.

While the other great experimenters of the time; Sly Stone, Gil Scott Heron, Curtis Mayfield & Stevie Wonder to name a few, went on to greater things, Shuggie faded into the unknown.

Oddly, about the time he was dropped from his label, he received a call from Billy Preston, who informed Shuggie that The Rolling Stones were interested in him joining the band after the departure of Mick Taylor.

Shuggie declined. He later explained that, “I had my own group and my own label deal. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do. I had my own identity.” Plagued by lingering health problems Shuggie faded from the spotlight, emerging only for occasional session gigs.

In 2001, "INSPIRATIONS INFORMATION" was re-released by David Byrne on his Luaka Bop label and it gained some exposure for Shuggie as he appeared on some of the late night talk programs.

You can hear Shuggie’s influence on artists today, especially Prince and George Clinton. He now resides in northern California and does session work on occasion.

Think you have never heard Shuggie before…think again.

Please take a moment and check out his credits HERE.

We hope you enjoyed this edition of the MID-WEEK MUSICAL MEME and walked away with some new, appreciated knowledge.

Biography Information Culled From:
An Article Written for SOUL TRACKS by DENIS POOLE

12 Of Your Sparks

  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. damm

  3. Maryfly Says:
  4. that was a cool read. I have Strawberry Letter 22 singing in my head. Was that the same song?

  5. desert rat Says:
  6. Great story. Thanks for the education and the opportunity to hear some tremendous music.

  7. DAMM: Dude.. ya got on the board...

    MARY: Yes it is a cool read..he is an incredible talent

    ADR: Congrats again... a very good musical knowledge you have

  8. Yeah, Desert Rat puts me to shame...makes me look downright Philistinian.

  9. Happy day as the Bestest!!!

  10. Travis Cody Says:
  11. You were right. But then I knew when I came back I would be treated to a furtherance of my musical education.

    Thanks Dude.

  12. Heartiest congratulations on your Bestest Blog of the Day win -- well deserved.

    I feel so erudite - so many of the blogs I read are Bestest Blogs. Guess I have good taste, huh?

  13. Tug Says:
  14. I just want to give you all a shout out, kudos, all that. 'Cause when it comes to music, movies, all "detail" stuff? I suck. I bow to you all...wish I could play along, but I'll just have to be content to watch from the sidelines. With pom poms.

  15. Wow. This site is so incredibly cool. My hubby and I take several trips to Beale Street every year. It's our favorite escape! We're spending 2007 New Year's Eve at the Peabody. We wanted to do that this past New Year's Eve but EVERYTHING was sold out, as you can imagine. I'm gonna learn LOTS from your site here. Thank you!!!!

  16. Piacere Says:
  17. It pays to be OLD, doesn't it, dear???? I had a blast with that me some Shuggie!!!!


  18. Glad you all enjoyed this week. I was introduced to Shuggie when i was doing radio in 1972-1976 in Rochester and he always made me smile.


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