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Digital Subscriptions > Vintage Rock > May/Jun 2019 - Buddy Holly And The Crickets > TOP 20 THE BEST OF OTIS BLACKWELL

TOP 20 THE BEST OF OTIS BLACKWELL

You may not know the name, but you’ll certainly know the songs. As the man behind some of Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis’ most famous hits, Otis Blackwell was one of the most successful songwriters of his generation. Here is our pick of the Brooklyn-born songsmith’s greatest contributions to the canon…
Val Wilmer/Redferns/Getty

During the 1950s and early 1960s, Brooklyn-born Otis Blackwell was a prolific writer of R&B and rock’n’roll songs.Although he recorded several of his own tunes, including Daddy Rollin’ Stoneand Back Trail, his legacy rests on the numbers he wrote for the likes of Elvis Presley, Dee Clark and Jerry Lee Lewis.

Blackwell had developed his passion for music by listening to radio broadcasts of R&B and blues recordings, and by watching films featuring Tex Ritter and other singing cowboys. Although he won a talent contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem at just 21 years of age, he abandoned the idea of becoming a professional vocalist himself and instead worked diligently in New York City to write songs. He was aligned with Winfield Scott, Eddie Cooley, Jesse Stone and other black songwriters in crafting key hits for a variety of rock’n’roll artists. The full list of Blackwell’s more than 1,000 compositions led to recognition as an outstanding tunesmith by the Nashville Songwriters Hall Of Fame, the National Academy of Popular Music’s Songwriters Hall Of Fame, and the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame.

DADDY ROLLIN’ STONE

ARTIST OTIS BLACKWELL

LABEL JAY-DEE

RECORDED 1953

Otis Blackwell wrote and recorded this tune long before he was a name in the record industry. The bragging and boasting featured in the lyrics, combined with the punchy guitar work and the snappy snare drum, created a haunting audio sensation in 1953. Despite failing to generate chart action, it revealed a composer who, like Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters, was able to communicate sexual prowess and masculine authority in a convincing lyrical and vocal fashion. But while Chicago’s Checker and Chess labels were quite successful in pushing material like I’m A Manand Mannish Boyfor Diddley and Waters, Blackwell was unable to align himself with an aggressive label that could adequately market his music.

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