[JPL] About 1920s Rock N Roll & Johnny Otis

Arturo Gomez arturo at kuvo.org
Sun Aug 17 15:54:56 EDT 2008

Eric Jax wrote <<<< I have a book called "What Was The First Rock & Roll
Record?" >>>

The co-author of The First Rock n Roll song is Steve Propes my radio mentor,
it was he who opened the door for me to change vocations from retail
registered jeweler to public radio. During the last few years of my marriage
in the mid-80s I used to listen to his Sunday morning RnB oldies show on the
then KLON, answering trivia questions and making obscure requests Steve
asked me to come down to the station and answer phones for him because I was
knowledgeable and he needed to stick to the music, that's how I became
addicted to volunteering at public radio, the annual KLON Blues Festival,
membership drives, other activities including being the assistant for a
short lived Latin Jazz radio program on Saturday nights, I was hooked. After
divorcing and winding up in Miami in 1989, I followed my new found passion
for public radio and sought out WDNA which being at the right time at the
right place led me to be hired as Music Director in 1992 after the Blue
Print Committee chose WDNA as one of 4 stations across the nation to get a
grant and training to increase listenership, one of the members of the
committee sent to Miami to train us was my current PD/COO, Carlos Lando.

There are blues song with rock and roll in the title and in the lyrics both
singularly and collectively going back to the 1920s through the 30s, 40s and
beyond, one that always gets me is "My Man Rocks Me With One Steady Roll" as
by Trixie Smith. In the mid-50s when Cleveland deejay Alan Freed wanting to
hide the "devil's music" aspect, the "Negro element" of RnB and vocal
harmony groups as more and more white teens began listening to music that
was the domain of Black America for years, he coined the term Rock and Roll
from the lyrics of the music. To rock and or roll of course is a sexual
metaphor like so much of RnB, that's what the so-called Hall of Fame is in
Cleveland. In the early 1950s there were congressmen bemoaning the fact that
"the Negro has lowered the moral of White youths through the lewdness of
their music" Just as jazz musicians were a major factor of legalizing
marihuana thus RnB music & musicians even among upper crust Negro families
was viewed as blasphemous.

<<<< Eric wrote It's interesting to note that Johnny Otis, the man you
called "The Godfather of R&B" is Greek. """

It's not what I call him, that's his nickname and deservedly so!!!!  Johnny
Otis (Veliotes) was born in Vallejo(SF Bay Area)of Greek parentage in the
Black nieghborhopdd where his dad owned a grocery store, then the family
moved to Oakland. Johnny may be Greek by heritage but he is a Black American
in every other aspect, from his adolescence, through his teens to adulthood
and ever since he has lived as a Black man, spiritually, socially,
musically, politically,  family, business, et al  He has written several
books including the powerful Listen to the Lambs about the 1965 Watts

Ask Etta James if she thinks Johnny Otis is "Greek".


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