Johnny Otis - Willie and the Hand Jive

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Live on the Johnny Otis Show

"Willie and the Hand Jive" is a song written by Johnny Otis and originally released as a single in 1958 by Johnny Otis Show, reaching #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and #5 on the Billboard R&B chart. The song has a Bo Diddley beat and was partly inspired by the music sung by a chain gang Otis heard while he was touring. The lyrics are about a man who became famous for doing a dance with his hands, but the song has been accused of glorifying masturbation. It has since been covered by numerous artists, including The Strangeloves, Eric Clapton, Cliff Richard, Kim Carnes, George Thorogood and The Grateful Dead.

Clapton's 1974 version was also released as a single and also reached the Billboard Top 40, peaking at #26. Thorogood's 1985 version reached #25 on the Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.


Johnny Otis (born Ioannis Alexandres Veliotes; December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012) was an American singer, musician, composer, arranger, bandleader, talent scout, disc jockey, record producer, television show host, artist, author, journalist, minister, and impresario.

He was a seminal influence on American R&B and rock and roll. He discovered numerous artists early in their careers who went on to become highly successful in their own right, including Little Esther Phillips, Etta James, Big Mama Thornton, Johnny Ace, Jackie Wilson, Little Willie John, Hank Ballard, and The Robins (who eventually changed their name to The Coasters), among many others.

Otis has become widely synonymous with being known as the original "King of Rock and Roll" and the "Godfather of Rhythm and Blues".

In 1955, Otis started his own label, Ultra Records (he changed the name to Dig after releasing five singles). He continued to perform and appeared on TV shows in Los Angeles from 1957. On the strength of their success, he signed with Capitol Records. Featuring the singer Marie Adams and with his band, now known as the Johnny Otis Show, he made a comeback, at first in the British charts with "Ma! He's Making Eyes at Me" in 1957.

In April 1958, he recorded his best-known song, "Willie and the Hand Jive", a clave-based vamp. It was a hit in the summer of 1958, peaking at number 9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and was Otis's only Top 10 single. The single reached number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. Otis's success with the song was somewhat short-lived, and he briefly moved to King Records in 1961, where he worked with Johnny "Guitar" Watson.
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