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*On this date in 1930, Otis Spann was born. He was a Black blues singer.
From Jackson, Mississippi, Spann was an integral member of the Muddy Waters band of the 1950s and 1960s. The Magnolia state native began playing piano by age eight, influenced by local ivories stalwart, Friday Ford. At 14, he was playing in bands around Jackson. Finding more inspiration in the 78 disc of Big Maceo, who took the young pianist under his wing, Spann migrated to Chicago in 1946 or 1947.
After arriving in the windy city, Spann gigged on his own and with guitarist Morris Pejoe before hooking up with Waters in 1952. His first Chess date behind the Chicago icon the next year produced Blow Wind Blow. Subsequent Waters classics sported with Spann’s ivories include Hoochie Coochie Man, I’m Ready, and Just Make Love to Me.
Spann played on most of Waters’ classic Chess recordings for over sixteen years, his rippling piano providing the drive on the Waters influential 1960 live version of Got My Mojo Working, performed at the Newport Jazz Festival. It was here where Spann really “came out” dazzling the crowd with some sensational storming keyboard boogie. Strangely, producers somehow failed to recognize Spann’s vocal abilities. Spann took his sweet time in launching a full-fledged solo career. But his own discography is a satisfying one nonetheless, offering ample proof as to why so many fans considered him, then and now, as Chicago’s leading postwar blues pianist.
His recorded output was limited to a 1954 single, It Must Have Been the Devil, featuring B.B. King. Otis Spann died in 1970.
Heart & Soul
A Celebration of Black Music Style in America 1930-1975
by Merlis Davin Seay, Forward by Etta James
Copyright 2002, Billboard Books