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Otis Spann

An integral member of the nonpareil Muddy Waters band of the 1950s and '60s, pianist Otis Spann took his sweet time in launching a full-fledged solo career. But his own discography is a satisfying one nonetheless, offering ample proof as to why so many aficionados considered him then and now Chicago's leading post-war blues pianist. Spann played on most of Waters' classic Chess waxings between 1953 and 1969, his rippling 88s providing the drive on Waters' seminal 1960 live version of "Got My Mojo Working" (cut at the prestigious Newport Jazz Festival, where Spann dazzled the assembled throng with some sensational storming boogies).

The Mississippi native began playing piano by age eight, influenced by local ivories stalwart Friday Ford. At 14, he was playing in bands around Jackson, finding more inspiration in the 78s of Big Maceo, who took the young pianist under his wing once Spann migrated to Chicago in 1946 or 1947.

Spann gigged on his own and with guitarist Morris Pejoe before hooking up with Waters in 1952. His first Chess date behind the Chicago icon the next year produced "Blow Wind Blow." Subsequent Waters classics sporting Spann's ivories include "Hoochie Coochie Man," "I'm Ready," and "Just Make Love to Me."

Strangely, Chess somehow failed to recognize Spann's vocal abilities. His own Chess output was limited to a 1954 single, "It Must Have Been the Devil," that featured B.B. King on guitar, and sessions in 1956 and 1963 that remained in the can for decades. So Spann looked elsewhere, waxing a stunning album for Candid with guitarist Robert Jr. Lockwood in 1960, a largely solo outing for Storyville in 1963 that was cut in Copenhagen, a set for British Decca the following year that found him in the company of Waters and Eric Clapton, and a 1964 LP for Prestige where Spann shared vocal duties with bandmate James Cotton. Testament and Vanguard both recorded Spann as a leader in 1965.

The Blues Is Where It's At, Spann's enduring 1966 album for ABC-Bluesway, sounded like a live recording but was actually a studio date enlivened by a gaggle of enthusiastic onlookers who applauded every song (Waters, guitarist Sammy Lawhorn, and George "Harmonica" Smith were among the support crew on the date). A Bluesway encore, The Bottom of the Blues, followed in 1967 and featured Otis' wife, Lucille Spann, helping out on vocals.

Spann's last few years with Muddy Waters were memorable for their collaboration on the Chess set Fathers and Sons, but the pianist was clearly ready to launch a solo career, recording a set for Blue Horizon with British blues-rockers Fleetwood Mac that produced Spann's laid-back "Hungry Country Girl." He finally turned the piano chair in the Waters band over to Pinetop Perkins in 1969, but fate didn't grant Spann long to achieve solo stardom. He was stricken with cancer and died in April of 1970. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

Comments

boss
dymentedfrea k
If you love the blues, then check out my youtube channel and leave me some love? :> I play guitar much like jeff healey. Over the top and I'm in a wheelchair. http://www.y o u t u b e . c o m / u s e r / B r o c k D a v i s s o n 1 9 7 8
whiskey in black coffee
RIP OTIS.....We hardly knew ye........
Otis is the man
Do the do, Otis
Otis was one keyboard bangin' killa....
paolino46
He rocks my soul.
Easy listing sittin on the porch sippin on some moonshine type of music
boogiespeed
It DON'T get no 'mo bettah that this. Trust me.
Just love this sound.
marilynlewis . m l
"Look like twins" is the saddest love song I ever heard. Too bad it's so hard to find. I think it's on the "Bottom of the Blues" album? Does anyone know?
Spann - now that was a man, I spells it M-A-N, child!
wymangroovin
"Blues is a Brotherhood" Damn that's some effortlessly ferocious piano...I'm still trying to 'un-scrunch' my face.
Piano Blues - played with Muddy
affajbar
skat'n on dem 88's
got the power in both hands.
Otis Spann can put you in the mood,one of best "Blues" players that came around..Than k s Pandora,keep it going....... . . .
this is music - singing from the soul - this is piano playing not that gay crap from elton the chocker john
the piano is awesome to his sound.
BBBBBB Bad!!!!!!!!!

P diddy South Atl
i dig it.
I think I still prefer Memphis Slim.
love it
One thing is for certain about Otis Spann - he was not overly influenced by his playing in the Muddy Waters band. Otis Spann takes the blues back to its roots, what more can I say?
Underrated pianist and overall great soul shouter

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