About Otis "Smokey" Smothers
The Chicago blues scene boasted its own pair of Smothers Brothers, but there was nothing particularly amusing about their tough brand of blues music. The older of the two by a decade, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers was first to arrive in the Windy City from Mississippi in the mid-'40s. Howlin' Wolf liked the way he played enough to invite him into the Chess studios as his rhythm guitarist on several 1956-57 sessions (songs included "Who's Been Talking," "Tell Me," "Going Back Home," and "I Asked for Water").
Federal Records found Smothers's simple shuffle sound immensely appealing in 1960, recording 12 tracks by the good-natured bluesman with labelmate Freddy King handling lead guitar duties (King, Federal's parent logo, even issued a Smothers LP that's worth a pretty penny today). A four-song 1962 session that included "Way Up in the Mountains of Kentucky" and an updated version of the Hank Ballard & the Midnighters classic "Work with Me Annie" ("Twist with Me Annie") completed his Federal tenure.
Apart from a 1968 single for Gamma ("I Got My Eyes on You"), Smothers didn't make it back onto wax until 1986, when Red Beans Records, a small Chicago outfit run by pianist Erwin Helfer and guitarist Pete Crawford, brought him back to the record racks with an LP called Got My Eyes on You that showed his style hadn't changed a whit with the decades. Smokey Smothers was a beloved Chicago traditionalist until the very end. ~ Bill Dahl, Rovi