Willie and the Hand Jive musician dies

2012-01-20 07:36
Los Angeles - Johnny Otis, who made the R&B classic Willie and the Hand Jive and evangelised black music to white audiences as a bandleader and radio host, has died in California at age 90.

His manager, Terry Gould, says Otis died on Tuesday at his home.

Otis, who was white, grew up in a black neighborhood and adopted black culture as his own. He started his musical career as a drummer. By 1945, he was a band leader and had a hit with Harlem Nocturne.

Otis' 1958 recording of Willie and the Hand Jive sold more than 1.5 million copies.

He also wrote Every Beat of My Heart, which was a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips, and discovered R&B artists such as Etta James and Big Mama Thornton.

Johnny Otis performing Willie and the Hand Jive: