Shuggie Otis – Live
Born in Los Angeles, California, Otis is the son of rhythm and blues pioneer, musician, bandleader, and impresario Johnny Otis and wife Phyllis. The name “Shuggie” (short for “sugar”, according to his mother) was coined by Phyllis when he was a newborn. Otis began playing guitar when he was two years old and performing professionally with his father’s band at the age of twelve, often disguising himself with dark glasses and a false mustache so that he could play with his father’s band in after-hours nightclubs.
Otis, primarily known as a guitarist, 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 of the band Love. In 1969, Al Kooper asked Otis to be the featured guest on the second installment (Kooper Session) of the Super Session album series that had previously included Stephen Stills and Mike Bloomfield. Kooper and the then-fifteen-year-old Otis recorded the whole album over one weekend in New York. Immediately returning to Los Angeles, Otis, along with his father and singer Delmar “Mighty Mouth” Evans, performed on the album Cold Shot, released in 1969 on the Los Angeles-based Kent label. Another obscure album this three-man team recorded was the extremely rare and risque Snatch & The Poontangs, on which Otis recorded tracks under the pseudonym “Prince Wunnerful”.
Otis then released his first solo album later that year entitled Here Comes Shuggie Otis on Epic Records. Countless musicians were his guests on that debut attempt, including Johnny, Leon Haywood, Al McKibbon, Wilton Felder. 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 (having played electric bass on “Peaches en Regalia” on the 1969 album Hot Rats), Etta James, Eddie Vinson, Richard Berry, Louis Jordan, and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland, among many others.