"I can work with pretty near any blues singer there is, I don’t care what kind. As long as they play the blues, and, uh, rock and roll, I can work with them."
Not many blues players could make that kind of claim, but Otis Spann, whose piano playing was the driving force in the Muddy Waters band for nearly 20 years, could speak with authority. More than almost any other blues instrumentalist, he brought a unique combination of forcefulness and sensitivity to his playing, and whether he was accompanying Chuck Berry or Little Walter or Sonny Boy Williamson or Buddy Guy he always indicated his sympathy for their style by some subtle variation in his approach. He left his mark on every record on which he played, and when he died this month at the age of 40 there was no one to take his place.
Some friends of Otis Spann’s were recently asked, separately, to talk about him. They included Muddy Waters, bassist Willie Dixon, drummer Sam Lay and guitarist Mike Bloomfield.