Otis Rush Jr. (April 29, 1935 – September 29, 2018) was an American blues guitarist and singer-songwriter. His distinctive guitar style featured a slow-burning sound and long bent notes. With qualities similar to the styles of other 1950s artists Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago blues and was an influence on many musicians, including Michael Bloomfield, Peter Green and Eric Clapton.
Rush was left-handed and strummed with his left hand while fretting with his right. However, his guitars were strung with the low E string at the bottom, in reverse or upside-down to typical guitarists. He often played with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning. It is widely believed that this contributed to his distinctive sound. He had a wide-ranging, powerful tenor voice.
The son of Julia Campbell Boyd and Otis C. Rush, he was born near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1935.
Rush moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1949 and after being inspired by Muddy Waters made a name for himself playing in blues clubs on the South and West Side of the city. From 1956 to 1958, he recorded for independent label Cobra Records and released eight singles, some featuring Ike Turner or Jody Williams on guitar. His first single, “I Can’t Quit You Baby”, in 1956 reached number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart. During his tenure with Cobra, he recorded some of his best-known songs, such as “Double Trouble” and “All Your Love (I Miss Loving).”
Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1959, and Rush signed a recording contract with Chess Records in 1960. He recorded eight tracks for the label, four of which were released on two singles that year. Six tracks, including the two singles, were later included on the album Door to Door in 1969, a compilation also featuring Chess recordings by Albert King. Rush went into the studio for Duke Records in 1962, but only one single, “Homework” backed with “I Have to Laugh”, was issued by the label. It was also released in Great Britain as Vocalion VP9260 in 1963. In 1965, he recorded for Vanguard; these recordings are included on the label’s compilation album Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 2. Rush began playing in other cities in the United States and in Europe during the 1960s, notably with the American Folk Blues Festival.
In 1969, his album Mourning in the Morning was released by Cotillion Records. Recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites (then of the band Electric Flag). The sound incorporated soul music and rock, a new direction for Rush.
In 1971, Rush recorded the album Right Place, Wrong Time in San Francisco for Capitol Records, but Capitol did not release it. The album was finally issued in 1976, when Rush purchased the master from Capitol and had it released by P-Vine Records in Japan. Bullfrog Records released it in the United States soon after. The album has since gained a reputation as one of his best works. He also released some albums for Delmark Records and for Sonet Records in Europe during the 1970s, but by the end of the decade he had stopped performing and recording.
Rush made a comeback in 1985 with a U.S. tour and the release of a live album, Tops, recorded at the San Francisco Blues Festival.
He released Ain’t Enough Comin’ In in 1994, his first studio album in 16 years. Any Place I’m Goin’ followed in 1998, and he earned his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1999. Rush did not record a new studio album after 1998 but he continued to tour and perform until 2003, when he suffered a stroke. In 2002, he was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album Hey Bo Diddley – A Tribute!, performing the song “I’m a Man”, produced by Carla Olson. Rush’s 2006 album Live…and in Concert from San Francisco, a live recording from 1999, was released by Blues Express Records. Video footage of the same show was released on the DVD Live Part 1 in 2003.
In June 2016, Rush made a rare appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel honored Rush’s appearance by declaring June 12 to be Otis Rush Day in Chicago. Due to his ongoing health problems Rush was unable to play, but celebrated on the sidelines with his family who stood around him.
Rush was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984.
In 2015, Rolling Stone ranked Rush number 53 on its 100 Greatest Guitarists list.
The Jazz Foundation of America honored Rush with a Lifetime Achievement Award on April 20, 2018 “for a lifetime of genius and leaving an indelible mark in the world of blues and the universal language of music.”
Rush’s death on September 29, 2018, from complications arising from his stroke in 2003, was announced on his website by his wife Masaki.
Gregg Parker, CEO and a founder of the Chicago Blues Museum said of Rush: “He was one of the last great blues guitar heroes. He was an electric god”. Writing in The New York Times, Bill Friskics-Warren said, “A richly emotive singer and a guitarist of great skill and imagination, Mr. Rush was in the vanguard of a small circle of late-1950s innovators, including Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, whose music, steeped in R&B, heralded a new era for Chicago blues.” (by wikipedia)
And here´s an exciting performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival:
Southpaw guitarist Otis Rush made his debut in 1956 with a cover of Willie Dixons “I Cant Quit You Baby”, charting his first Top Ten R&B hit. Over the course of his 50-year career, Rush has established himself as one of the premiere bluesmen on the Chicago circuit.
Often credited with being one of the architects of the West side guitar style, Rushs esteemed status as a prime Chicago innovator is eternally assured by his trademark sound. Blues fans have said that his combination of ringing, vibrato-enhanced guitar work with an intense vocal delivery is powerful enough to force the hair on the backs of their necks upwards in silent salute.
Otis Rush Live At Montreux 1986 features the Chicago blues legend at his spine-tingling best. For his first appearance at the Montreux Festival, Rush is joined on stage by fellow blues stars Eric Clapton and Luther Allison for a truly special show. The DVD features nearly an hour-and-a-half of performances of Rush classics, including “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)”, “Double Trouble” and many more. (amazon review)
This 1986 concert by Otis Rush was the first of four appeances that the legendary bluesman has made at the Montreux Festival to date. This particular night turned out to be a very special one when he was joined on stage by first Eric Clapton and then Luther Allison as they rockedtheir way through a set of Otis Rush classics and blues standards in a truly unforgettable performance.
Fred Barnes (bass)
Professor Eddie Lusk (vocals, keyboards)
Anthony Palmer (guitar)
Otis Rush (guitar, vocals)
Eddie Turner (drums)
Luther Allison (guitar, vocals on 12.)
Eric Clapton (guitar, vocals on 09. – 12.)
01. Tops (Rush) 4.37
02. I Wonder Why (Will My Man Be Home Tonight) (London) 7.09
03. Lonely Man (Campbell) 4.28
04. Gambler’s Blues (B.B.King/Pate) 8.58
05. Natural Ball (A.King) 5.37
06. Right Place, Wrong Time (Rush) 6.09
07. Mean Old World (Walker) 5.19
08. You Don’t Love Me (Cobb) 3.45
09. Crosscut Saw (Ford) 7.05
10. Double Trouble (Rush) 5.11
11. All Your Love (I Miss Loving) (Rush) 7.07
12. Every Day I Have The Blues (Chatman) 9.07
Otis Rush Jr. (April 29, 1935 – September 29, 2018)
RIP and … thanks a lot !!!