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4. Otis Rush

| March 31, 2008

The 20 All-Time Greatest Chicago Guitarists


4. Otis Rush

Revered by blues and rock musicians alike, legendary guitarist/vocalist Otis Rush is perhaps the most intense, soulful bluesman of his era. Since the ’50s, when he had his first chart-topping hit on Cobra Records, “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” Rush has gone on to influence musicians such as Michael Bloomfield, Peter Green, Eric Clapton, Santana, Luther Allison, Jeff Beck, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

Rush, along with Buddy Guy and Magic Sam, pioneered the West Side sound, a minor-key variation characterized by impassioned gospel-tinged vocals and bursts of arpeggio guitar riffs. His unique approach is offset by his left-hand technique – playing the guitar upside-down and backwards, Rush bent the strings downward for dramatic effect.
He moved to Chicago from Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1949 and made the decision to become a performer after seeing Muddy Waters. Waters, who brought the deep blues to Chicago, later cited Rush as being one of the deepest of deep bluesmen.

— Beverly Zeldin-Palmer

20 – 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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