Johnny Otis and How To Do The Hand Jive

December 28, 1921 – January 17, 2012

Johnny Otis packed them into dance halls so tight the kids didn’t even have room to dance, so they improvised and moved their hands instead. Art, or if that’s too highfalutin, rock ‘n’ roll does imitate life, and that’s how the hand jive began. It’s simple really, put a sharp, searing guitar lick over top a Bo Diddley beat, mix in some echo and let it rip.

The man deserves his own book really, as a producer he discovered Jackie Wilson, Esther Phillips, Little Willie John and Etta James, he made Big Mama Thornton’s Hound Dog and it’s his band that plays behind Johnny Ace’s Pledging My Love. R&B music would not be what it is without this California born son of two Greek immigrants. It is easy to then say you and I wouldn’t be quite what we are either. He was that kind of man.

The hand jive (and yes, it’s still pretty fucking cool):

Slap your hands on your knees two times

Clap your hands twice

Cross your hands, right above

Cross them again, right below

Make fists and hit them twice, right above

Do it again, right below

Give me a thumbs up with your right hand and shake it twice over your right shoulder

Do it again with your left

Slap your hands on your knees twice…

Do this furiously for two minutes and thirty four seconds and brothers and sisters find yourself unburdened.

Willie and the Hand Jive, Johnny Otis

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About Iaan Hughes

Iaan Hughes is a deejay on 91.3 KBCS in Seattle. He plays country & western music.
This entry was posted in Doo Wop, Music, Pop, Radio, Rock, Rockabilly, Uncategorized and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

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