Johnny Otis, the godfather of Rhythm and Blues, has passed away at the age of 90. The musician, who wrote and recorded R&B classic "Willie and the Hand Jive", died Tuesday, January 17 at his home in the Los Angeles suburb of Altadena. Otis' manager Terry Gould confirmed news of his passing.
Gould additionally noted that the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer had been in poor health for several years. The R&B legend's friend and music historian Tom Reed, meanwhile, told Reuters in his memory, "His role in pop and rock'n'roll music made him a legend, he could do it all. He is one of the greatest talents of American music and he was a great American."
Otis was born John Veliotes to Greek immigrants in northern California, but grew up in a predominantly African-American neighborhood in Berkeley. As a teenager, he changed his name to Johnny Otis because he thought it sounded more black. He founded his own band in the mid-1940s and had his first hit with 1945's "Harlem Nocturne".
Otis was credited to helping singers like Etta James, Jackie Wilson, Esther Phillips and Big Mama Thornton find their fame. He also wrote Gladys Knight and the Pips' 1961 hit "Every Beat of My Heart", and produced Thornton's "Hound Dog," which was later made famous by Elvis Presley.