Otis Spann

The music of Otis Spann is immediate and urgent, completely clear in its content. Otis is one of the great and thoroughly authentic blues storytellers. Into his blues piano playing Otis put his soul. As part of the Muddy Waters' band he could frequently be found in Chicago's south side performing nightly with Muddy, who treated Spann as his protégé and referred to him as his half brother. And under Waters guidance, Otis Spann emerged as a top-notched musician, and took command of his own sessions as well.

Otis Spann, originally from Jackson, Mississippi, was born March 21, 1930. He was of a younger generation than fellow pianists Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes or Memphis Slim,but his early musical tutelage was very similar. In Spann's case, he was inspired to play the piano at the age of eight by a local pianist Friday Ford. A few years later his ability had developed sufficiently for him to enter, and win, a competition playing and singing songs like “Backwater Blues” and “Four O'clock Blues.” The chronology of the next few years has become confused by Spann's penchant for giving conflicting information in interviews. Over time, a lot of what he had to tell interviewers changed to suit the circumstances and what he thought would be believed. It appears correct, though, that he was playing in local bands around Jackson from the age of 14, moving to Chicago when his mother died in 1947.

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