Blues legend Otis Rush dead at 84

Otis Rush in 2003
(Image credit: James Fraher / Getty Images)

Blues guitarist Otis Rush has died at the age of 84. Rush died on Saturday from complications following a stroke he suffered in 2003. 

The news of Rush's death was announced in a statement on his website: "Masaki Rush, wife of Otis Rush announced that on September 29, 2018 Mr. Rush, one of the most influential Chicago blues artists of all time passed away due to complications from a stroke which he initially suffered in 2003.

"Known as a key architect of the Chicago "West Side Sound' Rush exemplified the modernized minor key urban blues style with his slashing, amplified jazz-influenced guitar playing, high-strained passionate vocals and backing by a full horn section. Rush's first recording in 1956 on Cobra Records I Can't Quit You Baby reached #6 on the Billboard R&B Charts and catapulted him to international acclaim. He went on to record a catalog of music that contains many songs that are now considered blues classics."

Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1935, Rush moved to Chicago as a 14-year-old, where he later recorded his breakthrough hit I Can't Quit You Baby, a Willie Dixon song covered on Led Zeppelin's debut album. “That must be the first time I ever saw anybody’s hair stand straight up on their head,” remembered Dixon. 

Rush’s career stalled as he was beset by contractual and personal problems, but in early 1960 he found renewed success after recording So Many Roads, So Many Trains for the Chess label, a song that went on to be covered by British artists like John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and the Climax Blues Band. 

Rush's biggest legacy may be the influence he had on the blues revival of the 1960s and beyond. A huge influence on players like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Carlos Santana, Mike Bloomfield and Stevie Ray Vaughan, he also wrote Double Trouble, the song Vaughan named his backing band after.

Rush was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1984, and picked up a Grammy for Traditional Blues Recording in 1999 Any Place I'm Going album. He continued to play and tour until the early 2000s, but never took the stage again after his 2003 stroke. 

Fraser Lewry

Online Editor at Louder/Classic Rock magazine since 2014. 38 years in music industry, online for 25. Also bylines for: Metal Hammer, Prog Magazine, The Word Magazine, The Guardian, The New Statesman, Saga, Music365. Former Head of Music at Xfm Radio, A&R at Fiction Records, early blogger, ex-roadie, published author. Once appeared in a Cure video dressed as a cowboy, and thinks any situation can be improved by the introduction of cats. Favourite Serbian trumpeter: Dejan Petrović.