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Weekend Life

Acclaimed musician Shuggie Otis coming to Chicago

The world is rediscovering musician Shuggie Otis.

On Tuesday, Epic will release the double-CD set "Inspiration Information"/"Wings Of Love." "Inspiration Information" is Otis' acclaimed 1974 album that is long out of print, and "Wings Of Love" features 14 previously unleased live and studio tracks recorded from 1975 to 2000.

He has won accolades as a guitarist on projects with artists as diverse as Etta James, Frank Zappa and Mos Def. Otis, the son of R&B pioneer Johnny Otis, will perform Tuesday and Wednesday at Lincoln Hall, 2424 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show starts at 8 p.m. each night, and tickets are $20, available by going to www.lincolnhallchicago.com.

Kane County Chronicle reporter Eric Schelkopf had the chance to talk to the influential musician about his career and his latest activities.

 

Eric Schelkopf - You're releasing "Wings Of Love," which features previously unreleased live and studio tracks. Are you happy to finally get it out there?

Shuggie Otis: Man, it was a labor of love. I'm also going to be recording a new album pretty soon with a new label.

ES: So what should people expect from the new album?

SO: It will be a little bit more aggressive album, even the ballads. Everything will be kicked up a notch. I'm very excited about the new songs.

ES: You worked with Al Kooper when you were only 15 years old. What did he teach you?

SO: He was kind of like my father in the studio, very much like my dad in the studio.

He was very easy to work with. I never saw him get out of hand with anybody.

ES: Musicians like Prince have said you influenced them. Is that a big compliment?

SO: It is flattering. I do take it as a compliment, because I like those musicians. If I didn't like them, I’d still take it as a compliment. It's just flattering.

ES: What did your dad teach you?

SO: He was the greatest dad anyone could have. He taught me everything I know about what I do in the studio, and everything I do in business meetings. It's like he's right there with me.

I know it's genetics partly, but I was always there when he was making his phone calls, when he was rehearsing his bands, when he was working in the studio. He would take me everywhere.

ES: I understand you love the blues.

SO: The blues are where I start and I end. To me, the blues and classical music are the most honest forms of music.

I love rock, don't get me wrong. If it's real good classical music, it's soulful, especially Bach.

ES: So is this the second phase of your career?

SO: I would say it's the last phase of my career. I'm having fun with it.

I can take my own time because I have my own label, but when I sign the deal with a new label, I'll have a time frame, which doesn't bother me a bit, because I work well under pressure.

My wife passed away when she was 46 in 2001. We were married for 23 years.

I was torn up for 10 years, and then I hit the bottle and drugs for another 10 years.

ES: I'm glad you have cleaned yourself up.

SO: Thank you. I believe that's the reason I'm doing this now, because of her and my dad.

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