KPFK to air Johnny Otis tributes

johnny+otis+bill+gardner-kpfk.jpgKPFK (FM 90.7) had a long association with Johnny Otis, the soul and R&B legend who died this week. Tonight at 8 p.m., DJ Bill Gardner will host a two-hour tribute to Otis and his music. Gardner was Otis' assistant at KPFK in the early 80s.

On Saturday morning, KPFK will re-air two hours of the old "Johnny Otis Show" from the Pacifica Radio Archives. They're on earlier than most Johnny Otis aficionados probably get up on Saturday, but a KPFK staffer who has heard them says "they're radio magic!" At 6 a.m., Otis has on guests Koko Taylor and Big Jay McNeely. At 7 a.m. it’s Screamin’ Jay Hawkins.

More Otis: Nice tribute from Tom Schnabel on the KCRW website. Excerpt:

One of the great things about being older is that you remember artists who meant a lot to you, artists that younger people might not even know about. One was Ioannis Veliotes, young son of Greek immigrants, who moved to LA and became Johnny Otis.

He was all over the place when I was growing up. He had a radio show during the heyday of AM radio, on KFOX. He had a television show where he introduced us to great R&B and soul acts such as Little Willie John (original version of “Fever” that Peggy Lee got all the credit for), Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, Esther Phillips, Bo Diddley, Don and Dewey, The Three Tons of Joy (a Gospel group), Big Mama Thornton. Otis scored hits with his version of Earl Hagen’s “Harlem Nocture” as well as a top 40 hit, “Willie and the Hand Jive” He had a big band that was second to none. He played drums, vibes, piano, violin.

Photo: Otis and Gardner in 1984

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