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Otis Grand: Blues ’65

Blogger asked Otis a few questions ahead of his rare, lengthy interview in the July 2012 issue of Blues Matters magazine.  His new album “Blues ‘65” is on release Sept 17th on the Manhaton Label.  

How do you write your songs?

“Everyone has his own method of writing songs. I usually start off with an album concept first and the contents would follow. I scan books and magazines for song titles and sometimes a Thesaurus and it works pretty well. I write one or 2 verses and send it to my partner Lori Basson in Portland Oregon and she would finish off the rest. She is a wonderful lyricist and usually sends back more verses than needed – so I have my pick later on in the studio. Different vocalists have different breathing techniques and prefer to adjust a line here and there or words to suit them. But lyrics are nothing without the melody – so I come with melody that fits the words.”  

What guitars do you use?

  “I don’t collect guitars. I have a couple of vintage guitars and the rest are all modified Tokai Strats that I use on the road. I just replace the pickups with Van Zandt Blues and that’s it. As a kid growing up we only had Gibsons & Fenders to fantasize about… the rest are all budget instruments catering for the kid market. And – yes – my first ever electric guitar was a Silvertone Amp in the case. My first serious electric was a 1968 Fender custom Telecaster with the binding which I then stupidly traded for a stupid early 70’s big head-stock Strat with the truss rod end showing. I still feel like a dummy who’d been had with this trade, so think twice before parting with anything precious.”   “So I am a straight Fender and Gibson guy, and always played the same two instruments forever. I don’t like to change my guitars at all. Some players are so unhappy with their instrument or the sound they get from it they are forever changing brands and guitars – in search of something missing, most probably deep in their souls. Tokai Strats are excellent, better than Fender re-issues and if you lose them or get stolen, you don’t have to carry that guilt for the rest of your life.”

If you were to appear on British Radio’s Desert Island Discs, what 12 albums (singles aren’t enough) and one book would you take to the desert island?  

  “My music choice would be:  

  1. B.B. King – Blues Is King
  2. BB King – Live at The Regal
  3. Magic Sam – West Side Soul
  4. Freddie King – Freddie King plays a Bonanza of Instrumentals.
  5. Buddy Johnson Orchestra – Rockin N Rollin
  6. Roy Clark – Fingers on Fire
  7. Robert Cray Band – Sweet Potato Pie
  8. George Jones – The Best of George Jones (1955-62)
  9. Albert King – Live Wire/Blues Power (Stax)
  10. Ry Cooder – Paradise And Lunch
  11. The Essential Bob Wills 1935-1947
  12. Commander Cody & His Lost Planet Airmen – Live at The Armadillo Headquarters.”

“The Book would be Chuck Berry’s Biography. Written by him in the same narrative style as his famous songs. A super thrill to read & re-read.”  

What was the most memorable concert/gig you attended (rather than played)?

“All early BB King shows standout for me. Also Commander Cody and the Lost Planet Airmen – Jan 26 1976. I was in the London visiting a friend. I knew Bobby Black earlier, so I went to see them at the Hammersmith Odeon. No question – the best live performance ever.”

If you’d like to read the full interview with Otis Grand, subscribe to Blues Matters magazine to receive your copy electronically or by post.

Otis Grand’s website: http://www.otisgrand.com