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Midnight at the BarrelhouseThe Johnny Otis Story$
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George Lipsitz

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816666782

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816666782.001.0001

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Willie and the Hand Jive

Willie and the Hand Jive

(p.54) Three Willie and the Hand Jive
Midnight at the Barrelhouse

George Lipsitz

University of Minnesota Press

This chapter shows how Johnny Otis became one of the most prominent personalities in popular music during the 1950s, making him Southern California’s most distinguishable representative of Black music. It begins by detailing Otis’ career as a radio disc jockey. Singer Etta James thought he was a natural at disc jockeying, as could be seen through his passion for music, and fervent language inspired by the African American vernacular. Disc Jockey Tom Reed considered Otis a kindred spirit in the advancement of Black music and artistry. He also admired his political activism and overall promotion of Black culture. The chapter then narrates the events leading to Otis’ release of his biggest hit ever, “Willie and the Hand Jive,” featuring Earl Palmer on drums, Jimmy Nolen on guitars, and Johnny on vocals.

Keywords:   Johnny Otis, Etta James, African American vernacular, Tom Reed, Black culture, Willie and the Hand Jive, Earl Palmer, Jimmy Nolen

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