[MGSA-L] Johnny Otis, Greek-American musician, dies at 90

Anagnostou, Georgios anagnostou.1 at osu.edu
Fri Jan 20 11:03:11 PST 2012

For list members interested in the life and work of Johnny Otis the scholarship of George Lipsitz is exemplary:
Lipsitz, George. 1993. "Introduction. Creating Dangerously: The     Blues Life of Johnny Otis." In Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue. xvii–xxxv. Wesleyan University Press.
Lipsitz, George. 2007. "How Johnny Veliotis Became Johnny Otis." Journal of the Hellenic Diaspora Vol. 33(1&2): 81–104.
Lipsitz, George. 2010. Midnight at the Barrelhouse: The Johnny Otis Story. University of Minnesota Press.

There is also Johnny Otis' autobiography (Upside Your Head! Rhythm and Blues on Central Avenue. Wesleyan University Press, 1993). To honor Otis's life-long anti-racist activism I share the following passage, a commentary about his wedding ceremony in Reno, Nevada (May 2, 1941), to his high school sweet heart Phyllis Walker, an Afro-Samoan:

[California anti-miscegenation law prevented them from marrying in California, but also in Nevada where] “we got around the problem by the same apartheid mentality in Reno” (59)

“Our parents could have the marriage annulled if they chose to [they couple were both underage]. My mother chose to. She sent my father to Reno with specific instructions to break us legally. But Pop had different ideas.
    The first thing he did when he saw Phyllis was to take her in his arms and hug her and kiss her.
    ‘Your mother sent me to annul the marriage, but I came to meet my new daughter,’ he said in Greek, with tears in his eyes.
     “And besides, I don’t want to get God on my case.”
I never loved that old man more than I did at that moment” (59).

Yiorgos Anagnostou
From: mgsa-l-bounces at uci.edu [mgsa-l-bounces at uci.edu] on behalf of Roland Moore [rolandmo at pacbell.net]
Sent: Friday, January 20, 2012 1:16 PM
To: mgsa-l at uci.edu
Subject: [MGSA-L] Johnny Otis, Greek-American musician, dies at 90

From: John Maas <jrmaas at gmail.com<mailto:jrmaas at gmail.com>>

Filed under something I didn't know but love knowing now.

Johnny Otis, Rhythm and Blues Musician, Dies at 90 - NYTimes.com<http://NYTimes.com>

“Genetically, I’m pure Greek,” he told The San Jose Mercury News in 1994. “Psychologically, environmentally, culturally, by choice, I’m a member of the black community.”

Johnny Otis was born John Alexander Veliotes (some sources give his first name as Ioannis) on Dec. 28, 1921, in Vallejo, Calif., the son of Greek immigrants who ran a grocery. He grew up in a predominantly black area of Berkeley.
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