Otis Rush
@ The House Of Blues, Chicago, June 7, 1997

The anticipation was running high for the appearance of the west side blues legend Otis Rush. Rush recorded some classic blues in the late 50's on Cobra Records that cemented his position in the pantheon of Chicago blues legends. He performed some of those classic songs this night at the HOB's including the haunting All Your Love. Born in 1934 in Mississippi, Rush moved to Chicago in 1948 where he was inspired by the electric Delta blues of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. He was self taught on the guitar, playing left handed with the guitar upside down without switching the strings. This gives him a very unique style and sound. The sound he gets from his guitar is just amazing, with the string bends, intense vibrato, and emotion laden leads, he plays with a passion. He was then influenced by the playing of B.B. King and Albert King. After hearing him play, Willie Dixon helped Rush get the recording contract with Cobra where they recorded the now classic I Can't Quit You Baby.

After the early Cobra recording successes, with songs like Double Trouble and Groaning The Blues, Rush's reputation as one of the great blues guitar players was firmly established. Unfortunately, a series of bad experiences soured Rush on the recording industry. His mistrust of record companies led him to limit his recording output and give up playing all together for a period of time. In 1994 he released his first studio recording in over 14 years with the acclaimed Ain't Enough Comin' In. There are a number of live recordings from shows during the past 25 years that are of mixed quality. What a loss to the blues world for this lack of recorded output over the past 35 years. Even more reason to applaud his recent recordings and to revel in his all to infrequent live shows.

The Otis Rush band is made up of some superb musicians. After the band opened with two numbers including Little School Girl, Otis walked on stage wearing his white cowboy hat and carrying his left handed guitar -- this one custom made for him. Just his presence on stage and his distinct guitar playing is awe inspiring. While some performers have to resort to showmanship tricks, all Otis Rush has to do to entertain is just stand there and play his guitar.

He played a torrid Cross Cut Saw that set the tone for an exceptional evening of blues. Next was the hauntingly beautiful All Your Love and the rest of the night was almost one long instrumental session with some moaning vocals interspersed. After a turbulent Stormy Monday closing Rush was called back on stage with a rousing ovation where he encored with Tore Up. This was definitely a night to remember!

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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