V/A feat. Jon Spencer – Brace Yourself: A Tribute To Otis Blackwell (CASSETTE, US)

12 Feburary 1994 Shanachie
01. Graham Parker – Paralyzed
02. Chrissie Hynde & Chris Spedding
– Hey Little Boy (Little Girl)
03. Paul Rodgers – Home in Your Heart
04. Frank Black & the Stax Pistols – Breathless
05. The Smithereens – Let’s Talk About Us
06. Tom Verlaine – Fever
07. Joe Louis Walker – On That Power Line
08. Deborah Harry – Don’t Be Cruel
09. Jon Spencer – All Shook Up
10. Frank Black – Handyman
11. Joe Ely/Sue Foley – Great Balls of Fire
12. Ronnie Spector – Brace Yourself
13. Willy DeVille – Daddy Rollin’ Stone
14. Dave Edmunds – Return to Sender
15. Kris Kristofferson – All Shook Up
V/A feat. Jon Spencer - Brace Yourself: A Tribute To Otis Blackwell (CASSETTE, US)
*exact track listing / side breaks unknown*

Cassette edition featuring Jon Spencer covering All Shook Up (written by Otis Blackwell and made famous by Elvis Presley).

This album was released in Japan as “Otis Blackwell – Breathless: Tribute to Black Heroes in Music.”.

In 2022 the Jon Spencer track appeared on ElvisPresleyinJazz: A Jazz Tribute To Elvis Presley.

[Credits taken from the CD edition]

Drums and Percussion Steve Ferrone
Guitars: Chris Spedding
Bass: Kenny Aaronson
Organ and Piano: Jimmy Destri
The Uptown Horns: Baritone Sax: Crispin Cioe, Tenor Sax: Arno Hecht, Trombone: Bob Funk, Tenor Sax: Richie Cannata, Trumpet: Larry Etkin
The Lone Arranger: Crispin Cioe
Harn Arrangements: The Uptown Horns Produced: Jon Tiven for Private Domain and Tony Visconti for Tony Visconti Productions inc.
Executive Producer: Randall Grass
Production Assistants: May Pang-Visconti & Sally Tiven
Basic Tracks and Mixing: Sound on Sound, New York
Recording Engineer: Jimmy Douglas
Mix Engineer: Tony Visconti
Second Engineer: Peter Beckerman (mixing)/Derek Emke (tracking)
Overdubs at Studio 900 and RPM Studios, New York
Engineers: Jimmy Douglas, Joe Johnson

Additional Recording at Apartment 2, Novato, Cal.
Engineer: Johnny Colla
Assistant: Dave Fredericks

Pavillion Studios, London, England
Engineer: Jason Eyers

Bismeaus Studios, Austin, Texas
Engineer: F. Campbell

Chicago Recording Co., Chicago, Ill.
Engineer: Chris Shepard

Digital Mastering: Robert Vosgien, CMS Digital, California

Additional Individual Track Credits:

01. Graham Parker – Paralyzed
Background Vocals: Frank Black, Johnny Colla, Jol Dantzig, Lyle Workman, Tony Visconti, Sally Tiven and Graham Parker

02. Chrissie Hynde & Chris Spedding – Hey Little Boy (Little Girl)
All Guitars: Chirs Spedding

03. Paul Rodgers – Home in Your Heart
Lead Guitar: Steve Cropper
Rhythm Guitar: Jon Tiven
Riff Guitar: Chris Spedding

04. Frank Black & the Stax Pistols – Breathless
Vocal Harmonies: Glen Matlock and Frank Black
1st Solo: Steve Cropper
2nd Solo: Chris Spedding
Riff Guitar: Jon Tiven
Britone Rhythm Guitar: Frank Black
Baritone Sax: Crispin Cioe

05. The Smithereens – Let’s Talk About Us
Claps: Dennis Diken, Kenny Margolis, Ira Sebastian Elliott
Backing Vocals: Dennis Diken, Kenny Margolis, Jim Babjak, Tony Visconti
Piano: Kenny Margolis
The Smithereens are: Lead Vocals/Rhythm Guitar: Pat DiNizio, Lead Guitar: Jim Babjak, Drums: Dennis Diken, Bass: Mike Mesaros

06. Tom Verlaine – Fever
Fingersnaps: Tony Visconti, Randall Grass, Jimmy Destri, Steve Ferrone
Lead Guitar/First Solo Guitar: Tom Verlaine
Second Guitar Solo: Chris Spedding

07. Joe Louis Walker – On That Power Line
Lead Guitar and Fills: Joe Louis Walker
Organ: Jon Tiven

08. Deborah Harry – Don’t Be Cruel
Background Vocals and Claps: Jimmy Destri, Tony Visconti, Sally Tiven, Kenny Aaronson, May Pang-Visconti and Deborah Harry

09. Jon Spencer – All Shook Up
Lead Guitar: “John Spencer”

10. Frank Black – Handyman
Guitar Solo: Chris Spedding
Sax Solo: Arno Hecht
Duotone Rhythm Guitar & Harmony Vocal

11. Joe Ely/Sue Foley – Great Balls of Fire
Associate Producer/Bass Guitar: Sarah Brown
Lead Guitar: Sam Foley
Piano: Marcia Ball & Tim Alexander

12. Ronnie Spector – Brace Yourself
Vocal Harmonies: Tony Visconti, Jimmy Destri & Jon Tiven
Acoustic Guitars: Chris Spedding & Jon Tiven
Sax Solo: Richie Cannata

13. Willy DeVille – Daddy Rollin’ Stone
Background Vocals: Tony Visconti, Sally Tiven, Jimmy Destri and Kenny Aaronson

14. Dave Edmunds – Return to Sender
Produced: Dave Edmunds
All Instruments and Vocals: Dave Edmunds

15. Kris Kristofferson – All Shook Up
Acoustic Guitars: Kris Kristofferson & Chris Spedding
Harp: Kris Kristofferson
Vocal Harmonies: Kris Kristofferson & Steve Cropper

[Taken from the CD edition]

This album contains no samples, no synthesizers, no sequencers, and no midi information. All of the music you hear is unencumbered by the restraints of digital technology.

Frank Black & Johnny Colla appear coutesy of Elektra Entertainment
Chrissie Hynde and Deborah Harry appear courtesy of Sire Records
Paul Rodgers appears courtesy of Victory Music
Joe Ely appears courtesy of MCA Records
Sue Foley appears courtesy of Antone’s Records
The Smithereens appear courtesy of RCA Records
Willie DeVille appears courtesy of FNAC Records (France)
Jon Spencer appears courtesy of himself

Notes From The Producers:

Otis Blackwell emerged during a time when songwriters were not encouraged by record companies to become artists in their own right, and as a result the record-buying public was denied access to one of the greatest singer/songwriters of the rock ‘n’ roll era. Those who have been fortunate enough to see Otis perform his songs live can appreciate how big a debt Elvis Presley owed to Otis not only for providing songs for him but for creating a style of singing that Elvis obviously incorporated into his own recording persona. Making BRACE YOURSELF! Was an educational process as well as pure pleasure, and helped me get closer to one of the people who inspired me to become a songwriter in the first place. I hope you like it half as much as we all enjoyed making it.

– Jon Tiven, October 1993

Although I was aware of Otis Blackwell before this album started, my esteem for him shot up 5000% by the end of it. This unsung hero wrote some of the best songs ever heard since the birth of Rock. Not only were his melodies unforgettable and haunting (in the case of ‘Fever’) but the man was an incredible poet too a fact that emerged when I worked on the vocals with his lyrics in front of me. If you put Otis’ songs under a microscope you will see nothing but perfection All of us had a ball recreating some of the glorious music we grew up with. An image I shall never forget is Odette, Otis’ daughter, sitting in the studio with her seven year old son Torian, listening to the playback of the mixes. Young Torian knew most of the words to all the songs and if he forgot any Odette quickly reminded her son what the missing words were. Otis’ music will never die.

– Tony Visconti, October 1993

As Herbie Hancock once said when introducing him, “if you’re a musician and you write a song that becomes a hit and then it becomes a standard , that means you’re very lucky. But when you’re a composer and have written songs that have shaped the foundation of a music, then what you have is a phenomenon.”
Brooklyn born and raised, Otis Blackwell is one of the few songwriters whose music helped define Rock and Roll in the early and mid-50’s. Having written more than 1,000 songs which have sold nearly 200 million records, Otis began his music career in the late 40’s writing songs while working as a presser in a Brooklyn tailor shop. He began performing his music in the early 50’s in various Brooklyn clubs and theatres, and after which decided to target his talent solely to writing. Best known for writing the smash hits “Return to Sender”, “All Shook Up”, “Paralyzed”, and “Don’t Be Cruel”, Otis created the meat and bas of Elvis Presley’s career.

“When I first started, two tracks were just invented. So first I played on the piano and then I would overdub the voice and because I didn’t have a drummer (or drum) I used a box for the beat.” [Otis told me this about two months before the stroke. This was how he presented the songs to Shalimar.]

In performing on his on demonstration recordings, Otis’ singing style caught the ear of Aaron Goldmark of Shalimar Music Publishing who in turn introduced 2the Blackwell sound” to Elvis Presley’s people. The door was opened from that point on.

“An arranger named Leroy Kirkland took me to a publishing company called Shalimar. I presented about eight songs and out of the eight songs, ‘Don’t be Cruel’ was one of them.” Otis once explained in an interview, “About two or three weeks later I was informed that Elvis Presley was going to record it. I didn’t know whether to be happy of not because I didn’t know who Elvis Presley was. And then again, I had this song ‘Fever’ out and I figured that was going to be my biggest ever.”

Not stopping there, Otis scored another hit with Jerry Lee Lewis singing “Great Balls of Fire”. And Dee Clarke who was a key star for Veelay Records found major chart success with Blackwell’s “Just Keep it Up” and “Hey Little Girl”, that he wrote for his childhood sweetheart Josephine Peoples, who soon became his wife.

His song “Handy Man” was the first recorded by the falsetto star, Jimmy Jones, and much later by James Taylor. In similar sequence Little Willie John, a leading r& b star of the late 50’s had a top chart hit with “Fever”, and years later Peggy Lee enjoyed a revival hit with “Fever” as well.

“It was an open door policy when I was coming along. 1619 Broadway, the Brill Building, you start at the top floor, regardless of what kind of song you had, and by the time you got down the stairs to the first floor, somebody had your songs – you didn’t have to play an instrument, just beat it out on leg and sing!”

At other times in his career Blackwell had also been successful as a record producer, having helped turn out hits with artists as diverse as Connie Francis, Mahalia Jackson and Sal Mineo.

In the early ’80’s The Black Rock Coalition, a prominent organization of black rock musicians, led by Vernon Reid, the lead guitarist of the band, Living Colour, held a tribute for him at the Prospect Park Bandshell in his native Brooklyn. Many prominent musicians and singers took part including Blackwell himself, who performed an assortment of his best songs – “One Broken Heart for Sale”, “Back Trail”, “Don’t Be cruel”, and “Daddy Rolling Stone”.

Taking his act to the road again. Blackwell began performing “for fun” as he put it in the mid-seventies, appearing at various New York and Nashville clubs. And after increasing interest in country music, he decided to relocate his home and office to Nashville.

Already an inductee of the Nashville Songwriters Association, Blackwell’s moment of glory should have been on May 29, 1991 at the Songwriters Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony and Awards Dinner. Having bought a new tuxedo and asking his daughter Odette to be his ‘date’ Blackwell was aware of the induction and eager to attend the dinner. However on February 28, 1991, Otis Blackwell suffered a serious stroke which left him completely paralysed. In addition the stroke resulted in the loss of speech.

Currently, Otis is attended by his wife Mamie who he married in 1991, and his son Otis Junior. Although he is unable to write music, his songs live through the interpretations by other artists. Hopefully this collection will educate the public to the greatness of one of America’s musical masters, an original source but not a household name – Mr. Otis Blackwell.

– Odette Blackwell-Brown and Forest Ray

Thanks to: Lucy Tiven, Richard Nevins, Randall Grass, Susie McKinley, Sarah Brown, John Telfer, Odette Blackwell-Brown, Leslie Hoeflick, Billy Ficca, Dennis Diken, John Snyder, Angela Strehli, Ken Goes, Peter Lubin, Phil Carson, Kirk Pascal, Vernon White, Kevin Jennings, Angel Cropper, Lisa Deville, Philippe Rault, Jules Solo, Jonathan Greenfield, Jol & Laurel Dantzig, Johnny & Shannon Colla, Lyle Workman, Donnie Fritts, Alan Tepper, Roberta Bayley, Craig Blasam, Allan Pepper, Bob Grossweiner, Gail Colson, Norma Bishop, Chris Spedding, Harold Seider, John Flansburgh, Cliff Chenfield, Ralph Baker, Forest Ray, Paul Clements, Ray Benson, Gary Weremeychik, Joe McEwen, Larry Mazer, and very special thanks to Alan “I Love Rock ‘n’ roll” Merrill for singing great scratch vocals.”

Photograph of Otis Blackwell: Raymond Ross
Front Cover Concept: R. Waqyne Martin

BARCODE: [unknown]