LIVE IN WILLIAMSBURG SET FOR RELEASE ON OCTOBER 14 FROM LOS ANGELES-BASED CLEOPATRA RECORDS
LIVE IN WILLIAMSBURG, the first live album from legendary guitarist Shuggie Otis, will be released by Los Angeles-based independent Cleopatra Records on October 14. Recorded at the Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn, NY, the album features the most complete collection of Otis’ extensive songwriting canon, including “Strawberry Letter 23” (one of the most sampled tracks in modern music history), “Inspiration Information,” “Sparkle City,” “Miss Pretty” and many other classic songs.
For Otis, the album marks the opportunity to capture a live performance on his memorable comeback tour, with an audience he calls, “both peaceful and excited at the same time. It was the first time I ever played at the Music Hall, and the crowd was partially insane! The energy was amazing.”
In addition, LIVE IN WILLIAMSBURG is a recorded testament to his band, which includes his son, Eric on guitar and his brother, Nick on drums (another son, Lucky, is a producer and has also played in his dad’s band).
“It was a great feeling having my brother and my two sons playing with me in various parts of the globe last year,” he said. “They have their own music as well, and I love them, and am also very proud of them. It’s special to play with them, and it was really important to me to capture one of our performances on record.”
A family connection to music is not new to Los Angeles native Shuggie Otis. The son of the legendary Johnny Otis, a pioneer of the LA R&B scene, Shuggie, born in 1953, honed his musical chops performing with his father’s bands. He began playing guitar at age 11 and soon appeared in clubs and on recording sessions with Big Joe Turner, Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker. “Growing up musically in my father’s band was a blessing,” he says. “I was getting my second set of guitar lessons through having to perform on stage.” Shuggie was “discovered” as a solo artist by noted songwriter, musician and producer Al Kooper, and as a 15-year-old guitar prodigy, played on seven tracks on Kooper’s second “Super Session” album, KOOPER SESSION: AL KOOPER WITH SHUGGIE OTIS.
At 16, Shuggie recorded his first official album under his own name, HERE COMES SHUGGIE OTIS, produced by Johnny Otis on Epic Records. Subsequently, Shuggie himself produced his second solo Epic LP, FREEDOM FLIGHT, featuring “Strawberry Letter 23.” It was his biggest commercial success. At 21, he produced his seminal album, INSPIRATION INFORMATION, also for Epic, which was released in 1974. UK-based writer Chris Campion ranks the LP alongside such late-’60s/early-’70s breakthroughs by black artists as Love’s Forever Changes, the Jimi Hendrix Experience’s Axis Bold As Love, Sly & the Family Stone’s There’s A Riot Going On, and Stevie Wonder’s Innervisions.
A “musician’s musician,” Shuggie is acclaimed and admired by artists such as Raphael Saadiq, QuestLove, Lenny Kravitz, Prince, David Byrne and B.B. King, who upon hearing his debut album called the then-teenage Otis, “his favorite blues guitarist.” According to Shuggie, “this is the biggest compliment that I have EVER received!”
Following the release of INSPIRATION INFORMATION, Otis was approached by Billy Preston to take the place of the departing guitarist Mick Taylor for The Rolling Stones’ world tour. He decided against it, wanting to make his own music and not be a sideman. Around that time, Quincy Jones produced a version of Shuggie’s “Strawberry Letter 23” with the Brothers Johnson, and it became a pop hit that reached #1 on the R&B charts.
After that, Shuggie seemingly disappeared, although he never stopped making music. He wrote, played and recorded. That material recorded at his home studio over several years make up the bulk of his “lost” album, WINGS OF LOVE, which Sony/Legacy issued in tandem with the re-release of INSPIRATION INFORMATION in 2013. He and his band played extensively in support of that album release on what he called the Never Ending World Domination Tour, the show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on April 19, 2013 among the many stops along the way.