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Local and State News

Stan and Ben (Stan Budzynski and Ben Hall) along with the Twyla Birdsong Band represented the Capital Area Blues Society in the International Blues CHallenge in Memphis Tennessee January 26 - 30.
Summer Solstice Jazz Festival Line up Announced.

Summer Solstice Jazz Festival
June 17-18, 2016
Planned Performances by Marcus Roberts
Grand Rapids Jazz Orchestra with Edye Evans
Michael Dease's Trombone Performance featuring Steve Turrie, Luis Bonilla and Steve Davis
Tumbao Bravo
Karrin Allyson
Gabriel Brass Band
Lydia Harrell
Bobby Murray Band
Ben Williams Quartet with Jazzmeia Horn

SSJF Fundraiser: Nighthawks
Friday March 25, 2016

Mark your calendars now for the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association Sunday Blues Series! This is a fundraising event for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival. The shows take place at Shakespeare's Lower Level, Doors at 2, music 3-7, cost $6 door, series $20.

National News and Beyond

Otis Clay American R&B And Soul Singer Passes at Age 73

Otis Clay (February 11, 1942 – January 8, 2016) was an American R&B and soul singer, who started in gospel music. In 2013, Clay was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.

Otis Clay made most of his best-known records in Memphis during the early '70s, but is still universally hailed as Chicago's deep soul king. In a city filled with legendary blues artists, Clay has become the proud standard-bearer for Chicago's enduring soul tradition.

Clay was born in rural Mississippi to a musical family, who moved in 1953 to Muncie, Indiana. After singing with local gospel group, the Voices of Hope, he returned to Mississippi to sing with the Christian Travelers, before settling in Chicago in 1957. In Chicago he joined a series of gospel vocal groups including the Golden Jubilaires, the Famous Blue Jay Singers, the Holy Wonders, and the Pilgrim Harmonizers, before making his first solo secular recordings in 1962. They were unissued, and Clay joined the Gospel Songbirds, who recorded in Nashville in 1964.  

In 1965 Clay signed with One-derful! Records in Chicago, to make secular recordings. After releasing a series of gospel-tinged soul records, his first hit came in 1967 with "That's How It Is (When You're In Love)", followed by "A Lasting Love.”  In 1968 the record company folded and his contract was bought by Atlantic Records, who launched their subsidiary Cotillion label with Clay's version of the Sir Douglas Quintet hit, "She's About A Mover."  The record became Clay's biggest pop hit, reaching # 97 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, follow-ups on Cotillion, including "Hard Working Woman" produced by Syl Johnson, and "Is It Over?" produced by Willie Mitchell in Memphis, were less successful.

Clay moved to Mitchell's Hi Records in 1971, and made many of his best known soul blues records for the label. His biggest hit came in late 1972 with "Trying To Live My Life Without You," which he followed up with "If I Could Reach Out". "Tryin' To Live My Life Without You" was later covered by Bob Seger, whose version made # 5 on the pop chart in 1981. After several more Hi singles and the album I Can't Take It, Clay moved to Kayvette Records, where he had his last national hit single in 1977, "All Because Of Your Love."  He later recorded for the Elka and Rounder labels, as well as Echo Records for whom he recorded the original version of "The Only Way Is Up" in 1980.

He was a genuine hero in Japan, where he's recorded two sizzling live albums filled with the churning grooves, punchy horns, and searing vocals that inevitably characterize the best deep soul.  Another live set recorded in Switzerland in 2003, Respect Yourself released in 2005 by Blind Pig Records was equally successful. In 2007, Clay returned to the studio and recorded the gospel album Walk a Mile in My Shoes on the Echo label.
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He remained a popular live act in Europe and Japan, as well as the US, and recorded three live albums, Soul Man: Live in Japan, Otis Clay Live and Respect Yourself. In the 1990s he recorded two soul albums for Bullseye Blues: I'll Treat You Right and the Willie Mitchell-produced This Time Around.

He was a nominee for a Grammy for Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance. As a resident of Chicago's West Side, he was actively involved in community-based economic and cultural initiatives. Clay was one of the 2013 inductees to the Blues Hall of Fame. In 2015 Otis published with Billy Price the album This Time For Real.

He died of a heart attack on January 8, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois at the age of 73.