The Mikell family of Charleston, South Carolina is a musical dynasty, featuring two Eugenes and an Otto. Indeed, the two Eugenes overshadow Otto Mikell in fame, beginning with the father, Eugene Mikell, Sr. who is, in turn, much more of a legend than either of his sons. Eugene Sr. was associated with two
legendary organizations in black history, the Jenkins Orphanage of Charleston and the 369th Infantry Jazz Band under the direction of James Reese Europe.
Father Eugene, considered one of the great historic jazz teachers, instructed his sons in the mastery of the reed family; both boys began gigging professionally on reeds by the late '20s, "Gene Mikell" became the usual credit for the junior Eugene.
Otto Mikell's recording career lasted about half as long as his brother's and involves one-third as many sides. Fortunately for his memory, at least a few of these collaborations have continued to merit attention among jazz listeners. Otto Mikell was in one version of Fess Williams & His Royal Flush Orchestra, cutting a series of sides for the Victor label in the late '20s. He also performed and recorded with the Savoy Bearcats, an 11-piece band associated with the Savoy venue in New York City, although talented leader Leon Abbey also took them on tour in Argentina, of all places. Prior to heading to New York City this group was known as the Charleston Bearcats.