September 30, 2018

WEST SIDE STORY:

Otis Rush, Influential Blues Singer and Guitarist, Is Dead at 83 (Bill Friskics-Warren, Sept. 29, 2018, NY Times)

While Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, his predecessors from the city's South Side, popularized an amplified update of the bare-bones sound of the Mississippi Delta, Mr. Rush's modernized variant -- which came to be called the West Side sound because of its prevalence in nightclubs in that part of town -- was at once more lyrical and more rhythmically complex.

"The sound was a radical departure from the down-home records that dominated the market at the time," the producer Neil Slaven, contrasting Chicago's West Side sound with its South Side counterpart, observed in the notes to a compilation of Mr. Rush's 1950s recordings for the independent Cobra label.

Mr. Rush's output for Cobra showcased his lacerating, vibrato-laden electric guitar lines and his gritty, gospel-inspired vocals -- throaty mid-register groaning, thrilling leaps of falsetto. Holding sway beyond Chicago, his adopted hometown, this early body of work served as a rich repository of material for the blues-rock bands of the 1960s.

The British group John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, which featured Mr. Clapton on lead guitar, included a version of Mr. Rush's slow-burning 1958 shuffle, "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)," on its 1966 album, "Blues Breakers." Led Zeppelin reimagined Mr. Rush's grinding 1956 hit, "I Can't Quit You, Baby," on its debut album, "Led Zeppelin"; the Rolling Stones updated the same song in 2016 on their album "Blue and Lonesome."

The Texas guitarist Stevie Ray Vaughan named his band after Mr. Rush's minor-key tour de force "Double Trouble." Virtuoso rock guitarists including Johnny Winter and Duane Allman have also cited Mr. Rush as an influence.

Mr. Rush's guitar technique owed a debt to the discursive single-string voicings of jazz players like Kenny Burrell and jazz-inspired bluesmen like T-Bone Walker and B. B. King. But it was also attributable to the fact that Mr. Rush played his instrument left-handed and upside down. Curling the little finger of his pick hand around the bottom E string of his guitar enabled him to bend and extend notes, to dazzling emotional effect.

Posted by at September 30, 2018 3:45 PM

  

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