By Lori Spencer
From their first meeting in 1953, the fates of Johnny Otis and Etta James seemed almost magically entwined.
Spunky little Jamesetta Hawkins, then 14 years old, was overheard rehearsing a song with her girl group The Creolettes in a San Francisco hotel bathroom. Outside the door, Johnny Otis’ ears perked up. “I knew instantly when I heard Etta sing in that bathroom audition that she would be a star,” he said decades later. “I heard the raw talent she possessed before she had developed.”
Johnny Otis – already famous for hits like “Harlem Nocturne,” “Castin’ My Spell on You,” and “Willie and the Hand Jive” – was also known as a radio disc jockey and a keen talent scout. His other discoveries included Big Mama Thornton, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Little Richard,…
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