|This article needs additional citations for verification. (September 2009)|
March 21, 1930|
|Died||April 24, 1970
|Labels||Decca, Chess, Storyville, Bluesway, Vanguard, CBS/Blue Horizon|
|Associated acts||Muddy Waters|
Spann's father was reportedly a pianist called Friday Ford. His mother Josephine Erby was a guitarist who had worked with Memphis Minnie and Bessie Smith, and his stepfather Frank Houston Spann was a preacher and musician. One of five children, Spann began playing piano at the age of seven, with some instruction from Friday Ford, Frank Spann, and Little Brother Montgomery. At the age of 14, he was playing in bands around Jackson, finding more inspiration in the 78s of Big Maceo Merriweather. It was Merriweather who took the young pianist under his wing once Spann migrated to Chicago in 1946. Spann gigged on his own, and with guitarist Morris Pejoe, working a regular spot at the Tic Toc Lounge.
Spann replaced Merriweather as Muddy Waters' piano player in late 1952, and participated in his first recording session with the band on September 24, 1953. From 1952 to 1968 Spann was a full-time member of the Muddy Waters band, while periodically recording as a solo artist. In that period he also did session work with other Chess artists like Howlin' Wolf and Bo Diddley.
Spann's own Chess Records output was limited to a 1954 single, "It Must Have Been the Devil" / "Five Spot", which featured B.B. King and Jody Williams on guitars, and two sides recorded in 1956 with a band featuring Big Walter Horton and Robert Lockwood that were unreleased at the time. He recorded a session with the guitarist Robert Lockwood, Jr. and vocalist St. Louis Jimmy in New York on August 23, 1960, which was issued on Otis Spann Is The Blues and Walking The Blues. A largely solo outing for Storyville Records in 1963 was recorded in Copenhagen. A set for UK Decca Records the following year found him in the company of Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton, and a 1964 album for Prestige followed where Spann shared vocal duties with band-mate James Cotton.
The Blues is Where It's At, Spann's 1966 album for ABC-Bluesway, sounded like a live recording. It was a recording studio date, enlivened by enthusiastic onlookers that applauded every song (Muddy Waters, guitarist Sammy Lawhorn, and George "Harmonica" Smith were among the support crew). A Bluesway encore, The Bottom of the Blues followed in 1967 and featured Spann's wife, Lucille Jenkins Spann (June 23, 1938 – August 2, 1994), helping out on vocals.
Several films of his playing are available on DVD, including the Newport Jazz Festival (1960) and Copenhagen Jazz Festival (1968) with the Nobody Knows the Trouble and Cold Cold Feeling solos (both festivals captured on Muddy Waters: Classic Concerts), while his singing is also featured on the American Folk Blues Festival (1963) and The Blues Masters (1966).
Following his death from liver cancer in Chicago in 1970, at the age of 40, he was interred in the Burr Oak Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois. Spann's grave laid unmarked for almost thirty years, until Steve Salter (president of the Killer Blues Headstone Project) wrote a letter to Blues Revue magazine to say "This piano great is lying in an unmarked grave. Let's do something about this deplorable situation". Blues enthusiasts from around the world sent donations to purchase Spann a headstone. On June 6, 1999 the marker was unveiled during a private ceremony. The stone reads "Otis played the deepest blues we ever heard - He'll play forever in our hearts".
He was posthumously elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980.
- Otis Spann is The Blues (1960)
- Good Morning Mr Blues (1963)
- The Blues is Where It's At (released 1963)
- The Blues of Otis Spann (1964)
- The Blues Never Die! (1964)
- Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol.1 (1966)
- Otis Spann's Chicago Blues (recorded 1966, released 1994)
- The Bottom of the Blues (1968)
- Cracked Spanner Head (1969)
- The Biggest Thing Since Colossus (1969)
- The Everlasting Blues vs. (1969)
- Up in the Queen's Pad (1969)
- Sweet Giant of The Blues (1969)
- Cryin' Time (recorded 1968, released 1970)
- Walking The Blues (recorded 1960, released 1972)
- Heart Loaded With Trouble (1973)
- Last Call: Live at Boston Tea Party (recorded 1970, released 2000)
- I Wanna Go Home (recorded 1964-69, released 2003)
- Complete Blue Horizon Sessions (recorded 1969, released 2006)
- Someday... (recorded 1967, released 2012)
With other artists
- Muddy Waters & Otis Spann - Collaboration (recorded 1958, released 1995)
- Muddy Waters - At Newport (1960)
- Lonnie Johnson - Portraits in Blues vol 6 (1963)
- "Brother" Waters & Eric Clapton - Raw Blues (recorded 1964, released 1967)
- Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 2 (as part of The Jimmy Cotton Blues Quartet) (1966)
- Buddy Guy - A Man & The Blues (1968)
- Muddy Waters - Fathers & Sons (1969)
- Johnny Shines - Last Night's Dream (piano on Pipeline Blues) (1969)
- Junior Wells - Southside Jam Blues (1969)
- Fleetwood Mac in Chicago/Blues Jam in Chicago, Vols. 1-2 (1969)
- Muddy Waters - Mud in Your Ear (1967, released 1973)
- Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson - Bosses of the Blues, Vol. 2 (recorded 1970, released 1991)
- Floyd Jones & Eddie Taylor - Masters of Modern Blues, Vol. 3 (recorded 1966, released 1994)
- Otis Spann With Muddy Waters & His Blues Band - Live The Life (Live) (recorded 1964-69, released 1997)
- T-Bone Walker & Joe Turner - Super Black Blues, Vol. 1 (recorded 1969, released 2001)
- David Maxwell & Otis Spann - Conversations in Blue (2010)
- "Chuck Berry - "You Can't Catch Me," "No Money Down," "Sweet Little Rock and Roller," "Roly Poly," "Berry Picking."
- List of blues musicians
- List of Storyville Records artists
- List of people from Mississippi
- Chicago blues
- Du Noyer, Paul (2003). The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Music (1st ed.). Fulham, London: Flame Tree Publishing. p. 181. ISBN 1-904041-96-5.
- Dead Rock Stars Club - accessed December 2007
- Allmusic bio
- Harris, S. (1981). Blues Who's Who. New York: Da Capo Press, pp. 477-479
- Russell, Tony (1997). The Blues - From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray. Dubai: Carlton Books Limited. p. 168. ISBN 1-85868-255-X.
- Leadbitter, M., Fancourt, L. and Pelletier, P. (1994): Blues Records 1943-1970 Vol 2, London: Record Information Services
- Thedeadrockstarsclub.com - accessed January 2009
- Otis Spann at Find a Grave
- Tribute to Otis Spann
- Otis Spann at Allmusic
- 1980 Blues Foundation Hall of Fame induction
- Review for Last Call CD
- Lucille Spann discography