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Founder Clyde Otis

Legendary music producer, songwriter and A&R (Artist and Repertoire) executive, Clyde Otis, was born in 1924 in Prentice, Mississippi. During his youth, Clyde had minimal access to music of any kind, as his family did not own a radio, although he did take up drumming during his teenage years.

Otis joined the marines once he was of age—a journey that would ultimately propel him further into his career in music than he could have ever imagined—where he met famed “Route 66” songwriter and composer, Bobby Troup. Following his service in the Marine Corps, Otis relocated to New York City, where for nearly a decade he would work tirelessly at various day jobs while pursuing musical composition and songwriting during the evenings. Otis found himself eventually driving a cab in the city—a job that he did not realize would ultimately lead to his big break into the music business.


Otis’s big chance to make his formal entrance into the music industry came shortly thereafter, during the mid-1950s, when by a stroke of luck a cab fare of his mentioned a party hosted by music publisher Sidney Kornhauser. Otis was able to convince his patron into giving his song, “That's All There Is to That” to the publisher. The song was picked up, and by the end of 1956 it had climbed up the music charts to become a top-20 hit, as performed by Nat King Cole. The success of his hit song landed him a job as the first African-American A&R executive at Mercury Records in 1958, just a short year and half after Kornhauser published his song.

During his tenure at Mercury Records, Clyde Otis worked with famed recording artist Brook Benton, and together they wrote several hit songs including, “Endlessly,” “So Many Ways,” “It’s Just A Matter of Time,” and “The Boll Weevil Song.” Clyde embraced his successes and went on to produce other hits artists such as The Diamonds (“The Stroll”), Sarah Vaughan (“Broken-Hearted Melody”), Dinah Washington (“This Bitter Earth,” “What A Difference A Day Makes,” & “September in the Rain”), Bobby Bland (“I’ll Take Care of You”), Timi Yuro (“Hurt”) and Nat King Cole’s hit, “Looking Back.” Otis also was the writer/producer for the hit Brook Benton and Dinah Washington duet songs, “Baby You've Got What it Takes,” and “A Rockin’ Good Way to Mess Around and Fall in Love.”

During the year of 1962, Clyde Otis was responsible for producing 33 of 51 hit songs that were released by Mercury Records. Otis left Mercury Records shortly after the string of impressive hits, and worked for a short while at Liberty Records. After his days at Liberty, Otis started Argon Productions which allowed him to work with a wide variety of musical icons including producing famed country singers Sonny James and Charlie Rich. He also penned songs for other musical stars including Aretha Franklin, Johnny Mathis and Elvis Presley.

During his lifetime, Clyde Otis wrote nearly 800 songs, many of which went on to become hit tunes. In early 2000, at the turn of the millennium, Otis was honored to be named The Rhythm and Blues Foundation recipient for the Pioneer Award. Otis passed away on January 8, 2008 in Englewood, New Jersey, he was 83 years old. Clyde Otis helped to solidify a place for African-Americans in the tough music business during a time where many were still be persecuted for their ethnicity in the United States. His strengths in songwriting, and musical collaboration and producing are the epitome of greatness and have spawned a legacy. Today the Clyde Otis Music Group is headed by Clyde’s son, Isidro Otis.

 

 

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