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Talkin’ Blues with Keith Wyatt: Adapting the Crafty Piano Riffs of Otis Spann to the Guitar

This audio is bonus content related to the April 2014 issue of Guitar World. For the full range of interviews, features, tabs and more, pick up the new issue on newsstands now or at our online store.

Among the greatest blues stylists of the 20th century was pianist Otis Spann, who rose to prominence in the Fifties with his definitive contributions to recordings by Muddy Waters and other Chess Records artists before emerging in the next decade as a solo performer.

A protégé of boogie-woogie titan Big Maceo Merriweather, Spann performed fast boogies, stomp-down shuffles and lyrical slow blues with equal finesse, drawing from a seemingly bottomless well of inventive melodies and rock-solid rhythms.

He had a warm, appealing vocal style but displayed his piano-playing gifts most comprehensively on instrumentals like “This Is the Blues” and “Walking the Blues” (both from the superb 1960 album Walking the Blues, which also features outstanding guitar work by Robert Lockwood).