Otis Rush

Last week Otis Rush, one of the legendary figures of Chicago blues, died. Not as well know as guitarists such as Muddy Waters and BB King, he was nevertheless probably more influential, especially on rock guitarists from Eric Clapton to Jimmy Page.

Chicago blues came out of the Great Migration, when African Americans from the South moved to Northern cities.  Through that migration, the Delta blues, which had originated in Mississippi in the 1920s and 30s, gave way, from the 1940s onward, to the harder, electrified urban sound of Chicago. ‘Chicago blues’, as  Bruce Iglauer, founder of the Chicago-based Alligator Records, put it, ‘is the music of the industrial city’.

Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1935, Otis Rush moved to Chicago in the late 1940s. Together with guitarists such as Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, Rush helped define a distinctive ‘West Side sound’, both more fluid and more spiky than the rawer sound of the South Side, where the original blues clubs had sprung up.

So, as a tribute to Otis Rush, here is a tribute to Chicago blues, with some of my favourite tracks, beginning and ending, of course, with Otis Rush himself.


Otis Rush, Sweet Little Angel


Howlin’ Wolf, Smokestack Lightning


Muddy Waters, I Feel Like Going Home


Willie Dixon, I Can’t Quit You Baby


JB Lenoir, Alabama Blues


Little Walter, My Babe



Junior Wells, Snatch It Back And Hold It


Buddy Guy, First Time I Met the Blues


Otis Rush So Many Roads

One comment

  1. patricksodonnell

    Wonderful stuff! Thank you so much. His death called to mind the late Magic Sam: “No blues guitarist better represented the adventurous modern sound of Chicago’s West side more proudly than Sam Maghett. He died tragically young (at age 32 of a heart attack), just as he was on the brink of climbing the ladder to legitimate stardom, but Magic Sam left behind a thick legacy of bone-cutting blues that remains eminently influential around his old stomping grounds to this day.” See:

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