Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, the J. Geils Band, Fleetwood Mac, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan these are just some of the popular artists who have covered Otis Rush 's songs. Yet Rush himself is barely known outside the blues world, even after garnering a Grammy for his 1998 album Any Place I'm Going. As The Essential Otis Rush makes abundantly clear, the unsung Mr. Rush is one of finest singers and baddest guitar players in blues history. If you don't already own Otis Rush, 1956-1958: His Cobra Recordings (which contains 20 of the same songs as this new 24-track collection), The Essential Otis Rush is truly an essential item for any blues fan.
Like many of his blues brethren in the Windy City, Otis Rush is a Mississippi native who relocated to Chicago while in his teens. Rush didn't become serious about the blues until he caught a Muddy Waters show at the Zanzibar in Chicago. Inspired by Waters' performance, Rush practiced guitar relentlessly in his West Side walkup apartment while not at his job in a cold storage plant. Legend has it the owner of a nearby club heard Rush's playing from the street. One night when a band bowed out of a gig at his bar, the owner recruited Rush as a stand-in. One gig led to another and another, until Willie Dixon eventually approached the young bluesman about recording for his Cobra label.
Most blues singers manage to act emotional, but Otis Rush's intensity seems channeled directly from his soul. Thanks also to some terrific minor-key tunes written by both Dixon and Rush, and Rush's searing guitar solos (he's a southpaw guitarist who plays a right-handed guitar upside down), these 1950s recordings contain some of the finest Chicago blues ever waxed. There's an ambient quality about these recordings due in equal parts to the acoustics of Cobra's tiny Roosevelt St. studio, Willie Dixon's echo-laden production, and the supremely soulful sax section that underscores the emotion in the music. It certainly helped to have big-time players on hand, including harmonicats Little Walter and Big Walter Horton, guitarists Ike Turner and Wayne Bennett, saxman Red Holloway, pianists Lafayette Leake and Little Brother Montgomery, drummers Al Duncan and Odie Payne, and the venerable Mr. Dixon on bass.
Chances are you'll recognize the song titles from various rock albums "I Can't Quit You Baby," "Double Trouble," "Groaning Blues," "My Love Will Never Die" but Rush's versions are the real deals. The collection contains four more alternative takes than Rush's 1989 Cobra retrospective (released on Paula/Flyright).
I Can't Quit You Baby; Sit Down Baby; Violent Love; My Love Will Never Die; Groaning the Blues; If You Were Mine; Love That Woman; Jump Sister Bessie; Three Times a Fool; She's a Good 'Un; It Takes Time; Checking on My Baby; Double Trouble; Keep on Loving Me Baby; All Your Love (I Miss Loving); My Baby Is a Good 'Un; I Can't Quit You Baby ["Take 3"]; Little Red Rooster; Groaning the Blues ["Take 3"]; My Love Will Never Die ["Take Unknown"]; She's a Good 'Un ["Take 4"]; Three Times a Fool ["Take Unknown"]; Double Trouble ["Take 3"]; Sit Down Baby ["Take Unknown"]
Otis Rush (guitar vocals); Little Walter, Big Walter (harps); Wayne Bennett, Louis Myers, Ike Turner (guitars); Harold Ashby, Red Holloway, Jackie Brenston (saxes); Lafayette Leake, Little Brother Montgomery (piano); Al Duncan, Odie Payne (drums); Willie Dixon (bass); unidentified others