The Associated Press reports that Johnny Otis, the Greek-American singer and bandleader who did a ton to introduce black music to white audiences, died on Tuesday at home in Altadena, California. He was 90.
As a bandleader, Otis scored is first hit with “Harlem Nocturne” in 1945, but he’s still best-known for 1950’s “Willie And The Hand Jive.” In the immediate pre-rock era, Otis dominated Billboard’s R&B charts, and talents like Etta James and Big Mama Thornton sang in his bands. He later worked as a radio host and wrote “Every Beat Of My Heart” for Gladys Knight & The Pips. The cult-fave R&B auteur Shuggie Otis is his son.
Below, watch Otis performing “Willie And The Hand Jive.”