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April 29, 1935 |
Philadelphia, Mississippi, U.S.
|Origin||Chicago, Illinois, U.S.|
|Genres||Blues, Chicago blues, R&B|
|Labels||Cobra, Chess, Duke, Vanguard, Cotillion, Bullfrog, Black & Blue, Delmark, Sonet, Blind Pig, This Way Up, House of Blues|
Otis Rush (born April 29, 1935) is a blues guitarist and singer. His distinctive guitar style features a slow-burning sound and long bent notes. With qualities similar to the styles of Magic Sam and Buddy Guy, his sound became known as West Side Chicago blues and was an influence on many musicians, including Michael Bloomfield, Peter Green and Eric Clapton.
Rush is left-handed and, unlike many other left-handed guitarists, plays a left-handed instrument strung upside-down, with the low E string at the bottom. He has played often with the little finger of his pick hand curled under the low E for positioning. It is widely believed that this contributes to his distinctive sound. He has a wide-ranging, powerful tenor voice.
The son of Julia Campbell Boyd and O. C. Rush, he was born near Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1935. Rush moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1948, and made a name for himself playing in blues clubs on the South Side and the West Side of the city. From 1956 to 1958, he recorded for Cobra Records and released eight singles, some featuring Ike Turner or Jody Williams on guitar. His first single, "I Can't Quit You Baby", in 1956 reached number 6 on the Billboard R&B chart. During his tenure with Cobra, he recorded some of his best-known songs, such as "Double Trouble" and "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)."
Cobra Records went bankrupt in 1959, and Rush signed a recording contract with Chess Records in 1960. He recorded eight tracks for the label, four of which were released on two singles that year. Six tracks, including the two singles, were later included on the album Door to Door in 1969, a compilation also featuring Chess recordings by Albert King. Rush went into the studio for Duke Records in 1962, but only one single, "Homework" backed with "I Have to Laugh", was issued by the label. It was also released in Great Britain as Vocalion VP9260 in 1963. In 1965, he recorded for Vanguard; these recordings are included on the label's compilation album Chicago/The Blues/Today! Vol. 2. Rush began playing in other cities in the United States and in Europe during the 1960s, notably with the American Folk Blues Festival. In 1969, his album Mourning in the Morning was released by Cotillion Records. Recorded at the FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the album was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites (then of the band Electric Flag). The sound incorporated soul music and rock, a new direction for Rush.
In 1971, Rush recorded the album Right Place, Wrong Time in San Francisco for Capitol Records, but Capitol did not release it. The album was finally issued in 1976, when Rush purchased the master from Capitol and had it released by P-Vine Records in Japan. Bullfrog Records released it in the United States soon after. The album has since gained a reputation as one of his best works . He also released some albums for Delmark Records and for Sonet Records in Europe during the 1970s, but by the end of the decade he had stopped performing and recording.
Rush made a comeback in 1985 with a U.S. tour and the release of a live album, Tops, recorded at the San Francisco Blues Festival.
Rush was elected to the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984. 
He released Ain't Enough Comin' In in 1994, his first studio album in 16 years.Any Place I'm Goin' followed in 1998, and he earned his first Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1999. Rush has not recorded a new studio album since 1998 but he continued to tour and perform until 2004, when he suffered a stroke. In 2002, he was featured on the Bo Diddley tribute album Hey Bo Diddley - A Tribute!, performing the song "I'm a Man", produced by Carla Olson. Rush's 2006 album Live...and in Concert from San Francisco, a live recording from 1999, was released by Blues Express Records. Video footage of the same show was released on the DVD Live Part 1 in 2003.
In June of 2016, Rush made a rare appearance at the Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel honored Rush's appearance by declaring June 12 to be Otis Rush Day in Chicago. Due to his ongoing health problems Rush was unable to play, but celebrated on the sidelines with his family who stood around him. 
Rush has two daughters and two sons from a previous marriage and two daughters, Lena and Sophia, from his second marriage.