Shuggie Otis (born Johnny Alexander Veliotes on November 30, 1953) is an American R&B, soul, rock, blues, and funk singer-songwriter, record producer, and multi-instrumentalist. His composition "Strawberry Letter 23", covered by The Brothers Johnson, topped the Billboard R&B chart and reached the top five of the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1977. His 1975 single "Inspiration Information" reached number fifty-six on the R&B chart.
Born in Los Angeles, California, Otis is the son of rhythm and blues musician, bandleader, and impresario Johnny Otis. Otis began performing professionally at the age of twelve, often disguising himself with dark glasses and a false moustache so that he could play in nightclubs.
Otis is a guitarist who also plays piano, organ, drums, and bass. In 1969 Al Kooper asked Otis to play on the second installment of the Super Session album; which had included Stephen Stills (whom Otis was to replace) and Mike Bloomfield, in addition to Kooper who produced and played on the album. Kooper and the then-fifteen-year-old Otis recorded the album Kooper Session over one weekend. Shuggie also appeared with his father and with singer Mighty Mouth Evans on the album Cold Shot, released in 1969 on Kent Records.
Otis then released Here Comes Shuggie Otis, his first solo album in 1970. While growing up around many musicians such as Sly Stone and Arthur Lee of the band Love, Otis ended up recording with several other artists such as Frank Zappa (playing electric bass on "Peaches en Regalia" on Zappa's 1969 Hot Rats), Cal Tjader, Etta James, Eddie Vinson, and more recently Mos Def.
In 1974 Otis released Inspiration Information. The album took almost three years to finish, and all songs were written and arranged by Otis and he almost exclusively played every instrument on the album. However, Inspiration Information" was far from a commercial success. After the release of Inspiration Information Otis was approached by Billy Preston on behalf of The Rolling Stones asking him to join the band for their upcoming world tour. He declined the offer, along with the chance to work with Quincy Jones in helping produce Otis' next album (which was never recorded). After a series of such refusals and concert incidents, Otis gained the reputation of being prima dona, and became less sought after as a session musician and ultimately lost his recording contract with Epic Records.
By the end of the 1970s Otis' stardom had faded. Since then his songs have been covered, used on various compilation albums, and sampled by numerous hip hop producers, including J Dilla who sampled the song "Not Available" for his 2006 Donuts release. David Byrne re-released Inspiration Information on April 3, 2001 on his Luaka Bop record label, including four songs from Freedom Flight as bonus tracks and a brand-new cover art.
His son, Lucky Otis, has played bass with Johnny Otis' band. Shuggie Otis is featured in the book Alligator Records Presents West Coast Blues, issued in August 1998 by Milwaukee, Wisconsin publisher Hal Leonard Corporation. Otis' father-in-law is trumpeter and bandleader Gerald Wilson.
Otis continues to record sporadically. He resides in the Northern Californian village of Sebastopol. His most current recordings, "Violet in Blue" and the title track "Novemberin'", are on the 2008 multi-artist album Novemberin', where he is joined by guitarist Jimmy Vivino of Late Night with Conan O'Brien and Mark Lotito, respectively.