Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Johnny Otis Show - The Watts Breakaway

Shuggie, Johnny & Delmar
Hey hey hey... It’s Wednesday. I can’t say a whole lot more about it. Despite the dubious institution of “hump day”, I can’t really get behind Wednesday as a siginifier of optimistic “glass-half-fullness”, in as much as it’s supposed to signify that our Sisyphus-ian efforts have not been for naught, and it should be all downhill from here. Baloney, I say. To paraphrase the great malapropist Yogi Berra, It ain’t Friday until it’s Friday. I think that secretly, way back in our minds, despite any hope we have that we’ve crossed a line of sorts and the sailing is going to be smoother from here on out, we all realize that this is true, and are dreading what Thursday and Friday have in store. Well my friends, I’m here to make it all better. I promised that I had some heaters in the on deck circle, and I wasn’t lying. As I sit here, listening to Roger and the Gypsies “Pass the Hatchet” – the very definition of “heater” – I know that even when you’re floating in a mid-week Sargasso Sea of deskbound bullshit, the right record can/will snap your head back, open your eyes and put a little glide in your stride Clyde. So, in the spirit of all things musically uplifting, I bring you today’s selection, a later entry from the Johnny Otis Show entitled ‘The Watts Breakaway’. For those that don’t know Johnny Otis was (and is) one of the true legends of West Coast R&B, getting his start in the 40’s and producing high quality material under his own name and for others (like his son Shuggie Otis and Preston Love) ever since. Starting his career as a drummer for Harlan Leonard’s Rockets, he assembled his own orchestra and started recording in the mid-40’s. He went on to discover Little Esther Phillips, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John and Hank Ballard among others. He scored a number of R&B hits in the 50’s, but had his first big success with ‘Willie & The Hand Jive’ in 1958. He continued to record (and produce, and discover, and do a TV show and a whole lot of other stuff) through the 60’s, and as times changed, the sounds coming out of the Otis stable changed as well. Shuggie Otis, only a teenager at the time was turning into a hot guitarist, and vocalist Delmar “Mighty Mouth” Evans had joined the Johnny Otis Show. Things were taking a turn for the funky. Perhaps the greatest example of this turn was 1970’s ‘The Watts Breakaway’. Written by Otis, and sung by Evans, ‘The Watts Breakaway’ is a super-funky, break-laden affair. Opening with a demented sounding bass riff, things soon get mighty clean, with a sharp horn section. Evans’ vocals are on-point, with the occasional interjection from Johnny, and some hot lead guitar from Shuggie. Sly & The Family Stone get namechecked too. As I said, the breaks are heavy, and despite a diggers wish for “clean” breaks, I really dig the way Delmar drops in with his UHNN’s, AHHH’s and what-not. I also really like when Johnny comes in near the end and asks
Johnny: “’ good as you can?”
Delmar: “Because I am the jumpingest, dodge-ingest,
dancing-est cat you ever knew!?
That’s solid! Evans, who appeared on a number of late 60’s/early 70’s Otis projects (including ‘Live at Monterey’ and ‘Snatch & The Poontangs’) , continued his career singing with the Johnny Otis Sgow well into the 80’s. ‘The Watts Breakaway’ has been comped (along with a bunch of Otis-related funk, including the Vibrettes 'Humpty Dump' - often misattributed to Eddie Bo ) on 'Watts Funky' (see below) .


Anonymous Steve said...

Man oh man, I love this song and I've been looking for the record for a while now. At least now I'll have a clean mp3 of it, so thanks for that.

If you haven't already, check out Shuggie's "Hurricane".

3/22/2006 02:31:00 PM  
Anonymous Steve said...

Ok... listening to your mp3 of this now. You may want to re-record it, as it's pretty distorted and there's a lot of clipping, as if the levels in to the soundcard were too high.

3/22/2006 02:34:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, that was a great song. He must have been at least in his fifties when he sang that. Is he still around today? Great post as usual.

3/22/2006 09:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Jon said...

Yeahhhh! Great tune, Larry!

Snatch & The Poontangs?!

3/22/2006 11:03:00 PM  
Blogger booze brothers said...

Great post as usual Larry, yours has got to be my favourite site at the mo - love the excitement of waiting for the little download bar at the bottom of the screen to get to 100% and then being hit with a killer track!
Keep up the sterling work!

3/23/2006 12:00:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm a constant reader from Germany, love your posts. Great Work, Great Music. Please do it again, and again, and again, and again, and again .........

3/26/2006 03:13:00 PM  
Blogger Larry Grogan said...

Thanks for the comments everyone! Glad you're digging it.

3/26/2006 04:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love it! Full-on burns.


3/27/2006 02:37:00 AM  
Anonymous lorezsky said...

very cool.

3/27/2006 03:11:00 PM  
Anonymous speedo harmonica jones said...

I made a record with Mighty Mouth Evans in 1984,which is now availale through cdbaby.comMy question is he still alve.Rumor has it he passed in 1988 or 1989.I am setting up a memorial website shortly.Any information would be appreciated

10/16/2006 08:35:00 PM  

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