Calabi Gallery

Featuring an Eclectic Array of Primarily 20th Century Artwork

Johnny Otis

Johnny Otis (Vallejo, CA. December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012)

Boogie Stompers by Johnny Otis, 1989, Oil on Canvas, 48 x 48

Legendary R&B and jazz musician Johnny Otis also painted, drew, sculpted, and cartooned. His creative energy was boundless and could not be limited to a single medium. Calabi Gallery is fortunate to be able to show a collection of his art consigned by the family of Terry Gould, his longtime friend and manager.

Considered by many to be the Godfather of Rhythm and Blues, Johnny started out in the Big Band Jazz era, but soon moved into a more contemporary sound. He played drums, piano, and vibraphone as well as singing. He discovered and promoted many young musicians including Etta James, Little Esther Philips, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, and Hank Ballard, to mention a few.

Born as a first generation Greek American in 1921, Johnny grew up in a black neighborhood and started to self identify as black, as that was the community he preferred. Not only was he a phenomenal musician and bandleader, but he also hosted many long running radio shows and even a television show. For a few glorious years in the early 90’s Johnny ran a small organic grocery store in Sebastopol, which he eventually turned into a tiny but exceptional nightclub. Oh, the music that poured out of that unpretentious place!

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