Johnny Otis

Johnny Otis Show: Vintage 1950's Broadcasts from Los Angeles

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AllMusic Review by

First things first: this isn't exactly a Johnny Otis record, even though some of the tracks are by him or the Johnny Otis Band. It's actually a compilation based around air checks and live broadcasts from 1950s radio and television shows in which Otis was the radio DJ, host, and/or one of the performers. It's confusing, indeed, to try to describe as a soundbite sentence in a record review, particularly as it also includes actual records (taken from the masters, not from the tapes of the broadcasts) that Otis played on his shows by the likes of Billy Ward & the Dominoes, Kip Tyler & the Flips, Don & Dewey, and Larry Williams -- not to mention ads, too, and even a 30-second radio spot from the early '60s by Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills endorsing Otis' candidacy for California state assembly. The liner notes aptly describe it as an "audio-verite collage" and if you're willing to listen to such an unconventionally structured compilation, it's a pretty fun spin for dedicated 1950s R&B/rock & roll fans. That's not really because of the music, which is decent (and sometimes quite rare), but not great. It's more because it captures the humor, spontaneity, and slightly mad flavor of how the music was presented to the public back when R&B and rock & roll were new, when ads for barbershops, off-the-cuff artist interviews (jazzbo Slim Gaillard somehow shows up for one here), and generally outrageous DJ shenanigans went shoulder-to-shoulder with the actual music. It's not totally lacking in musical rewards either, with some previously unissued live broadcasts featuring Otis (including a version of his hit "Willie & the Hand Jive"), the Penguins, and far more obscure singers Marie Adams and Little Arthur Matthews, all in okay sound quality considering the age of the broadcasts. Some of the records played between the chatter are pretty hot too, like Don & Dewey's frantic, Little Richard-like "Justine" and Kip Tyler & the Flips' Bo Diddley-ish novelty "Jungle Hop."

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 2:00
2
feat: Lula Reed
2:21
3
0:44
4
feat: Billy Ward
2:46
5
1:38
6
0:30
7
3:14
8
1:51
9
feat: The Penguins
2:31
10 2:48
11
1:39
12
feat: Marie Adams
1:46
13 1:49
14
0:39
15 6:22
16
feat: Marie Adams
4:48
17 3:28
18 2:39
19 3:35
20
feat: Marie Adams
3:13
21 1:41
22
1:28
23 2:32
24 2:01
25
6:26
26 2:04
27
1:19
28
feat: Jeani Mack
2:21
29
2:02
30
1:04
31 2:00
blue highlight denotes track pick