Thursday, April 09, 2009
Johnny Otis Meets the Kelly Brothers
Johnny Otis - She's All Right
R&B singer/songwriter/bandleader/disc jockey/TV host/health food impresario/minister/etc., etc. Johnny Otis' long career covers so many bases, ranging from his '40s and '50s work with his impressive orchestra and vocalists, to his discovery and/or development of artists like Little Esther Phillips and Etta James to hits like "Willie and the Hand Jive" and '60s soul sides for Kent, which by that time featured his son Shuggie, a guitar prodigy whose '70s solo recordings have achieved cult status and whose "Strawberry Letter 23" topped the charts when covered by the Brothers Johnson late rin the decade. Not too bad for a Greek-American (born John Veliotes) who was black in all ways but in skin tone!
In the midst of all this activity on a wide range of labels, Otis stopped by King Records to record a handful of sides in 1961 and 1962. At the time of his sojourn with the label, the Kelly Brothers, certainly no strangers to this blog, were on Federal as a gospel act, just a year or two away from secular success as "The King Pins" with "It Won't Be This Way (Always)." One of their gospel sides was the Soul Stirrers-sounding "He's Alright," a swinging thing from 1961, and Otis took a page from the Ray Charles playbook and tweaked the song to make it the secular "She's All Right" in 1962. I'm not sure if the Kelly Brothers were providing the fine backup vocals here, but the fine gospel background fits Otis' relaxed but soulful lead vocal nicely.