Otis Rush

Blues Blast Magazine – 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award

Otis Rush

It can be difficult to define the criteria that qualify a person for a Lifetime Achievement award. Not only do you have to assess the candidate’s body of work over their career, you also have to consider how their work measures up to that of their peers. The final assessment also has to factor in the level of respect the candidate has earned from their contemporaries.

No matter what criteria you might use, the impact and influence of Otis Rush on blues music is beyond question. His taut, searing guitar work helped define the electric Chicago blues style. As a singer, Rush can summon up the demons with a blood-curdling scream or make an emotionally-charged plea for relief from life’s challenges. And he composed songs like “Double Trouble”, “All Your Love (I Miss Loving)”, “My Love Will Never Die” and “Three Times a Fool” that have already been recognized as part of the classic blues songbook.

These initial recordings were released on Cobra Records, a small Chicago label that managed to sign three future legends of the westside Chicago blues style – Otis Rush, Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. Otis was part of the band that backed Buddy on his first two recordings – Sit & Cry (The Blues) and Try to Quit You Baby.

Rush suffered for his art. Despite his memorable releases for the short-lived Cobra label, larger labels like Chess and Duke allowed him to languish while tied down by contract. Capital Records never released the aptly named classic Right Place, Wrong Time, an oversight finally rectified five years later the tiny label, Bullfrog Records. Inexplicably, in the prime of his career, Rush endured a sixteen-year stretch that spanned the 80’s without a new studio recording.

And yet his legacy endures. The southpaw turned his guitar upside down and never missed a beat, squeezing out biting licks that still connect with aspiring guitar players. One unconfirmed tale has it that Eric Clapton once offered to pay Rush for the privilege of learning one of Rush’s patented licks. The legendary record Clapton cut as a member of John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers opened with the band’s rendition of “All Your Love”.

On the first Led Zeppelin album, Robert Plant did his best to recreate Rush’s haunting scream to open Willie Dixon’s “I Can’t Quit You Baby”. And the late Stevie Ray Vaughan named his band Double Trouble as a tribute to Rush’s enduring classic, which has also been covered by Muddy Waters, Paul Butterfield and Sean Costello.

This legacy serve as testimonials to the enduring influence that Rush and his music have achieved over the years. His legacy will continue to inspire future generations of blues musicians. In recognition of his outstanding contributions to blues music, we are proud to present Mr. Otis Rush with Blue Blast Magazine’s 2010 Lifetime Achievement Award.

Written by Mark Thompson