Shuggie Otis – The Child Prodigy’s Return To Music – by Michelle S.
The son of the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Johnny Otis, Shuggie Otis started playing guitar at the age of eleven. Shortly after this, he started playing with his father’s band and doing studio sessions with the likes of T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordon and Big Joe Turner. In 1969 at age 16, he released his first debut album, “Here Comes Shuggie Otis.” B.B. King, was quoted in a 1970 issue of Guitar Player magazine saying that Otis was his “favorite new guitarist.” At the time.
His album Freedom of Flight followed in 1971 which became Shuggie Otis’s biggest commercial success. Close to his 18th birthday, Shuggie started working on his third album, but his recording sessions were interrupted by doing tours with his father overseas. By the time he was able to get back to his recording sessions, he ended up doing all the horns and string arrangements himself over a period of three years to finally finish and release “Inspiration Information.” Unfortunately, this album failed to reach the charts and Epic Records dropped him from their roster.
Inspiration Information was re-issued in 2001 under David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label. He did some touring and shows for this reissue, but it just didn’t seem like the time and place for Otis, he kept touring but was also fending off offers for him to join some of the biggest names in music, Rolling Stones Spirit, David Bowie, Blood Sweat and Tears etc. He turned them all down because he didn’t want to be a side man anymore and he had other ideas where he wanted to go with his music.
This guy was even approached by Quincy Jones about producing his next album when he declined, Jones went ahead and recorded his song “Strawberry Letter 23, which became Shuggie Otis’s best-known song, and was made popular by the Brothers Johnson. It became a pop hit and reached #1 on the R&B charts.
Shuggie Otis took a hiatus from music while he went through some tough times with alcohol abuse, but eventually he became sober and has been for quite a while. He finally came out of the hiatus he was on and has been creating music and touring ever since. In 2018, he released Inter-fusion on the record label Cleopatra Records and has toured with the likes of Robert Cray and Taj Mahal. Back in his early days, he appeared on works by Frank Zappa, Bob Dylan, Johnny Otis and Al Kooper. As for retiring? Don’t count on it! To him, musicians can’t retire! If you get a chance to check him out on tour, you won’t be disappointed! Enjoy!