The Greek-American R&B Legend Who Passed as Black
Johnny Otis Felt He Had Been ‘Saved’ by the Political, Spiritual, and Moral Force of African-American Culture
If a role exists in black music that Johnny Otis couldn’t play, it would be hard to find. Known as the godfather of rhythm and blues, Otis was a bandleader, talent scout, singer, drummer, minister, journalist, and television show host. Between 1950 and 1952, Johnny and his band recorded 15 top 40 R&B blues hits. He discovered, produced and promoted a roster of stars, including Etta James, Little Esther, and Jackie Wilson.
Otis was not only a trailblazer in the world of music but also a religious leader and political …