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Attention Mac Users!

Mac users have been experiencing problems in unpacking the WinRAR archives used on this blog. Two solutions have been suggested.

1. Use The Unarchiver - - see comments on Little Esther Bad Baad Girl post for details.

2. Use Keka - - see comments on Johnny Otis Presents post.

Thursday 30 November 2017

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long

Side 1:
01. Midnight In The Barrelhouse
02. Boogie Guitar
03. Hangover Blues
04. Head Hunter
05. New Orleans Shuffle
06. Turkey Hop Part 1

Side 2:
01. Turkey Hop Part 2
02. Blues Nocturne
03. Freight Train Boogie
04. Mambo Boogie
05. All Nite Long
06. Honky Tonk Boogie

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long (Mega)

Johnny Otis & His Orchestra - All Nite Long (Zippy)

Another in the Savoy series of home made "LPs" and this time the quintessential New York indie record company goes way out west to the Land Where Dreams Come True as label prexy Herman Lubinsky recruits producer Ralph Bass (who had previously been with Black & White Records) to be Savoy's man on the Coast. And then Bass recruits Johnny Otis, his dynamite band (as you can hear on this collection) and his star vocal acts Little Esther, Mel Walker and The Robins. The result was a staggering series of R&B hits by the Otis organisation in 1950, including "Double Crossing Blues," "Mistrustin' Blues," "Cupid's Boogie" "Deceivin' Blues," "Wedding Boogie" and "Cry Baby."

These vocal hits will feature in future compilations but in this post I've concentrated on the mainly instrumental sides recorded by the band itself. Johnny Otis, drummer, vibes player, pianist, occasional vocalist, bandleader, impresario, nightclub owner, producer and arranger, talent spotter, song writer, disc jockey, label owner, political activist, minister of religion, artist, writer and chicken farmer was what you might call a Renaissance man. He simply did it all.

He was born John Veliotes in 1921 in Vallejo, California into a Greek immigrant family.  He was raised in Berkeley where his parents owned a grocery store which served the local Black community, a community with which Johnny would identify for the rest of his life. He was a fan of big band swing, especially of the band of Count Basie. As the 1930's turned to the '40's, Johnny took up playing the drums and gained his first band experience with a local small group, Count Otis Matthews & His West Oakland House Rockers.

The basic blues 'n' boogie of the group would stand Johnny in good stead in the future when the big band era came to end and rhythm 'n' blues took its place. But before that, back in 1941, Johnny got his chance to play in a big swing band when he joined the long established Omaha based outfit of Lloyd Hunter. Also in the band were alto sax man Preston Love, tenor sax players Paul Quinichette and James Von Streeter and bass player Curtis Counce, all of whom would spend spells in Johnny Otis led bands in the future.

Above: Omaha, 1941 - Preston Love and Johnny Otis in front of the Lloyd Hunter band bus

After two years with Lloyd Hunter, Johnny Otis and Preston Love quit to form their own band, but it was short lived as Count Basie came in for Love. Hearing that former Kansas City bandleader Harlan Leonard (now established at the Club Alabam in Los Angeles) was looking for a drummer, Johnny headed to LA where he got the spot, staying with Leonard until 1944 when he transferred to a band led by former Chick Webb front man Bardu Ali. Johnny and Bardu would later become business partners when they opened The Barrel House Club in Watts in late 1947.

In 1945 Johnny formed his own big band as the new house band at the Club Alabam and signed with Excelsior Records in the autumn of that year. His second disc for the label, "Jimmy's Round The Clock Blues," featuring Basie blues shouter Jimmy Rushing on vocals, backed with the classic bump 'n' grind instrumental "Harlem Nocturne" was a big seller and the band embarked on a national tour on the back of it. The Johnny Otis Orchestra recorded for Excelsior as a big band until December 1946 but by the next and final Excelsior session in December 1947 the band had slimmed down to an eight piece. The first track on this compilation "Midnight In The Barrelhouse" dates from that session although it was re-released on Savoy in 1951, thus justifying its inclusion here.

The final Excelsior line up included several musicians who would be mainstays of the Johnny Otis band during its most successful years - George Washington on trombone, Pete "Guitar" Lewis, and Mario Delagarde on bass. The band's next recording session was for Modern in August 1949 which was the first session to feature Little Esther on vocals. In November 1949 the band started recording for Savoy with Don Johnson on trumpet, Lorenzo Holden and James Von Streeter on tenor saxes, Walter Henry on baritone sax, Devonia Williams on piano and Leard Bell on drums. Along with Lewis, Washington and Delagarde this would be the core of the Johnny Otis band on Savoy and subsequently on Federal (unofficially) and Mercury.

Fax on the trax, Jack:

"Midnight In The Barrelhouse" recorded in Los Angeles, December 1947. Johnny Otis Orchestra : John Anderson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Cecil "Big Jay" McNeely (tenor sax); Lem Tally (baritone sax); "Darby Hicks" (piano); Pete "Guitar" Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Johnny Otis (drums).

Released on Excelsior JR 536 in February 1949. There were two virtually simultaneous Johnny Otis releases numbered Excelsior JR 536. "Happy New Year Baby" / "Barrel House Stomp" was listed in advance release notices in Billboard, 29th January 1949. This record was reviewed in Billboard on 12th February 1949. A second disc with the number 536, "Midnight In The Barrel House" / "Barrel House Stomp" was probably released shortly afterwards as it was rather late for a "New Year" release. 

"Midnight In The Barrelhouse" (note change in spelling) was re-released on Savoy 815 in September 1951 as the B-Side of an alternate take of "Harlem Nocturne" which was originally released on Excelsior JR 142.

Above: Billboard 30th April 1949

"Boogie Guitar" and "Hangover Blues" recorded in Los Angeles on November 10th, 1949. Johnny Otis and his Orchestra : Don Johnson and Lee Graves (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibraphone, drums); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Gene Phillips ( Hawaiian guitar on "Hangover Blues"); unknown 2nd guitar on "Boogie Guitar"; Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

This was the first Johnny Otis Orchestra session for Savoy.

"Boogie Guitar" first released on Savoy LP SJL 2230 "The Original Johnny Otis Show" in 1978.

"Hangover Blues" first released on Regent 1036 (also listed under Savoy 787), April 1951 as B-Side of "I Dream" (vocals by Mel Walker and Little Esther.)

"Head Hunter" and "New Orleans Shuffle" recorded in Los Angeles on December 23rd 1949. Probable personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: Lee Graves, Don Johnson (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Big Jay McNeely, Lorenzo Holden (tenor saxes); Walter Henry (baritone sax); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums). It's possible that James Von Streeter is present in place of Big Jay McNeely.

"New Orleans Shuffle" / "Blues Nocturne" released on Savoy 743 in May 1950.

"Head Hunter" / "Cool And Easy" (vocal by Redd Lyte) released on Regent 1028 in January 1951. Also listed under Savoy 774.

"The Turkey Hop Parts 1 & 2" and "Blues Nocturne" recorded in Los Angeles on January 11th 1950. Personnel: John Anderson (trumpet); Floyd Turnham (alto sax); Big Jay McNeely (tenor sax); Bob McNeely (baritone sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Johnny Otis (drums); The Robins - vocals on "The Turkey Hop Part 2."

"The Turkey Hop Part 1" / "The Turkey Hop Part 2" released on Savoy 732 in February 1950.

Above: The Cash Box, 18th February 1950

"Blues Nocturne" released on Savoy 743 in May 1950, B-Side of "New Orleans Shuffle."

"Freight Train Boogie" was recorded in Chicago on June 20th 1950. Personnel: Johnny Otis Orchestra: probably - Don Johnson, Lee Graves, Hosea Sapp (trumpets); George Washington (trombone); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes) Walter Henry (alto, baritone saxes); Johnny Otis (vibraphone); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

"Freight Train Boogie" released on Regent 1021 (b/w "Good Time Blues" vocal Redd Lyte) in August 1950.

"Mambo Boogie" was recorded in Los Angeles on January 10th 1951. Personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: Don Johnson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Walter Henry (alto sax); Lorenzo Holden, James Von Streeter (tenor saxes); Johnny Otis (vibes); Devonia Williams (piano); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums).

"Mambo Boogie" was released on Savoy 777 as the B-Side of "Gee Baby" (vocal - Mel Walker) in February 1951.

"All Nite Long" and "Honky Tonk Boogie" were recorded in New York City on March 19th and March 21st respectively, 1951. Personnel - Johnny Otis Orchestra: probably - Don Johnson (trumpet); George Washington (trombone); Earl Warren (alto sax); Lorenzo Holden (tenor sax); Walter Henry (alto and baritone sax); Devonia Williams (piano); Johnny Otis (vibes, percussion); Pete Lewis (guitar); Mario Delagarde (bass); Leard Bell (drums); vocal: Johnny Otis, George Washington and the band.

The March 21st session was the last Johnny Otis Orchestra session for Savoy.

"All Nite Long" was released on Savoy 788 b/w "New Love" (vocal - Mel Walker) in July 1951.

"Honky Tonk Boogie" was first released on Savoy LP SJL 2230 "The Original Johnny Otis Show" in 1978.

Elsewhere on the blog:

El Enmascarado's rips from a 78 rpm Johnny Otis disc. Includes added James Von Streeter and Big Jay McNeely tracks plus plenty of background info / speculation. Check it out.

More Johnny Otis coming soon!


Don Rocin said...

Had many of these tracks but your bit rate was infinitely better so it was great to hear them sounding so fresh.

Otis' take on Turkey in the Straw with Turkey Hop was new for me as I thought i had all of Pete Lewis' tracks. Never heard him so subdued, he sounds in the next suburb compared to his usual work.

Sincere thanks, B-Woody for making this available.

boogiewoody said...

Thanks for commenting Don. I'm relieved that the sound quality is "fresh" as these were among the first tracks I ever digitized, back in 2007. The original Be Bop Wino blog had a few Johnny Otis and other Savoy LPs posted back around October - November 2007 complete with terrible cover scans. I've been cannibalizing these and other albums to make up these Savoy compilations. Thank goodness the sound still stands up.


Anonymous said...

Just excellent stuff, as always. Can't have enough Johnny Otis, so this is much appreciated, B-woody.
With many thanx for your dedicated work & the appropriate season's greetings from Berlin,

boogiewoody said...

Thanks, dukester. More Johnny Otis and Little Esther posted this evening. Hope it's to your taste!


neil said...

I'm up for a listen to this, boogiewoody; a possible candidate for the Savoy At The Lair blog?