Otis’ formidable musical talents appeared at an early age. He began his professional career around 1965. He played a guitar solo on his bandleader, father Johnny Otis’ 1969 number 29 R&B hit, “Country Girl,” issued by Kent Records. His guitar skills were so adept that during his teen years, he would have to wear dark glasses and strategically apply black ink between his nose and mouth to appear old enough to perform in clubs with his father. (source: allmusic.com)
Well before Shuggie Otis (Born Johnny Alexander Veliotes, Jr.) cut his debut album, musicianship and performance had long been a part of his life. The son of rhythm and blues legend Johnny Otis, Shuggie learned to play guitar as early as the age of two, and performed professionally with his father’s band at eleven. Throughout his long and illustrious career he’d performed on records for the likes of Frank Zappa, Al Kooper, Etta James, and George Duke, to name a few. In spite of all this, widespread mainstream success eluded Shuggie for much of his career.
His most famous release to date is his 1974 album Inspiration/Information, which would experience new resurgent life in 2001. Those willing to dig a little deeper however, would discover hidden gold in his earlier releases, especially in the album directly before Inspiration/Information, his sophomore 1971 release Freedom Flight. As with his debut, Freedom Flight was produced by Shuggie’s father Johnny Otis, and built upon the distinct sounds of his debut album: lush, baroque, string section arrangements, paired with hard funk rhythms, and funky blues melodies, with the majority of the instruments once again performed by Shuggie himself. The album also featured backing from premium session greats like George Duke and Aynsley Dunbar, and the track “Strawberry Letter 23”. which became a Billboard hit for The Brothers Johnson 3 years later. An unearthed treasure of deft, technical skill, and virtuosic composition.