Otis Blackwell

Induction Year: 1986

Birth Name: Otis Blackwell

Birth Date: 02-16-1931

Place of Birth: Brooklyn, New York

Death Date: 05-06-2002

Place of Death: Nashville, Tennessee

Otis Blackwell created such cornerstone songs of Elvis Presley's career as "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up" and "Return to Sender," as well as the enduring classic "Fever." Presley reportedly based his vocal performances on Blackwell's original demo recordings of the songs.

The songwriter grew up in Brooklyn next door to a movie theater. As a youngster, he swept floors in the venue and became enthralled with singing-cowboy films. His favorite vocalist was Tex Ritter, who inspired him to begin singing.

At age 21, Blackwell won an amateur contest at the Apollo Theater in Harlem and recorded the self-penned "Daddy Rollin' Stone" for a small record company. He found that he hated life on the road and decided to concentrate on his songwriting in 1952. In the meantime, he returned to work as a clothes presser in a Brooklyn tailor shop.

Blackwell began creating homemade demo recordings that captured a distinctive songwriting voice — rhythmic and yet full of poetic lyrical touches. "When I first started, two tracks were just invented," he explained about his demos. "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."

His skillful demos soon attracted notice. Blackwell's first big songwriting success was "Fever," which he co-wrote using the pseudonym "John Davenport" for contractual reasons. Thereafter, he wrote for a series of New York publishers — Sheldon Music, Roosevelt Music, Shalimar Music and, most profitably, Hill and Range. Some of Blackwell's early Elvis Presley cuts credit Elvis Presley as a co-writer, but that was just the price that Colonel Tom Parker exacted for having a song recorded by his superstar singer. Presley did not actually co-write those songs.

Blackwell recorded singles sporadically throughout the 1950s and 1960s. In 1977, he released his album These Are My Songs and began performing again.

In the wake of his election to the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, he moved to Nashville in 1988. He formed a record label and a song-publishing company, but was felled by a stroke on Feb. 28, 1991. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that May. In 1994, the all-star tribute album Brace Yourself was released. Following a series of subsequent heart attacks, he died in Nashville in 2002. His songs have sold a reported 185 million records.
 

"(Such An) Easy Question"

(written with Winfield Scott)

Elvis Presley1965 #11 pop

"All Shook Up"

(written with Elvis Presley)

Elvis Presley1957 #1 pop, #1 country, #1 R&B
Suzi Quatro1974 #85 pop
Otis Blackwell1977 
Billy Joel1992 #92 pop
Rodney Crowell1995 
Carl Perkins1996 
 

"Breathless"

Jerry Lee Lewis1958 #3 R&B, #4 country, #7 pop
Otis Blackwell1977 
Wanda Jackson1982 
Carlene Carter1983 
X1983 
 

"Daddy Rollin' Stone"

Otis Blackwell1952 
Hank Ballard1954 
The Who1965 

"Don't Be Cruel"

(written with Elvis Presley)

Elvis Presley1956 #1 pop, #1 country, #1 R&B
Connie Francis1959 
Bill Black Combo1960 #11 pop
Pat Boone1963 
Barbara Lynn1963 #93 pop
Jerry Lee Lewis1975 
Billy Swan1975 
Merle Haggard1977 
Otis Blackwell1977 
Elvis Presley1978 
The Judds1987 #10 country
Cheap Trick1988 #4 pop
Marty Stuart1994 

"Fever"

(written with Eddie Cooley)

Little Willie John1956 #1 R&B, #24 pop
Peggy Lee1958 #5 R&B, #8 pop
Conway Twitty1958 
Elvis Presley1960 
Helen Shapiro1964 
The McCoys1965 #7 pop
Rita Coolidge1973 #76 pop
Otis Blackwell1977 
Isaac Hayes1979 
Madonna1993 
Don Williams2002 
Beyonce2003 
Celine Dion2004 
Bette Midler2005 
 

"For My Good Fortune"

(written with Bobby Stevenson)

Pat Boone1958 #23 pop

"Great Balls of Fire"

(written with Jack Hammer)

Jerry Lee Lewis1957 #1 country, #2 pop, #3 R&B
The Newbeats1964 
Tiny Tim1969 #85 pop
Otis Blackwell1977 
Dolly Parton1979 

"Handy Man"

(written with Jimmy Jones, Charles Merenstein)

Jimmy Jones1960 #2 pop, #3 R&B
Conway Twitty1960 
Del Shannon1964 #22 pop
James Taylor1977 #4 pop
Otis Blackwell1977 
Joel Hughes1982 #75 country
Frank Black1994 
 

"Hey Little Girl"

(written with Bobby Stevenson)

Dee Clark1959 #2 R&B, #20 pop
Bobby Vee1965 
Otis Blackwell1977 
Chrissie Hynde & Chris Spedding1994 
 

"Home in Your Heart"

(written with Winfield Scott)

Solomon Burke1963 
Otis Redding1964 
The Derek Trucks Band2002 
 

"I Told Myself a Lie"

(written with Jimmy Williams)

Clyde McPhatter1959 #70 pop
 

"Just Keep It Up"

Dee Clark1959 #9 R&B, #18 pop
Bobby Vee1967 
Narvel Felts1978 #31 country
 

"Let's Talk About Us"

Jerry Lee Lewis1959 
Otis Blackwell1977 
Shame Barmby1989 #77 country
The Smithereens1994 
Van Morrison & Linda Gail Lewis2000 
 

"Livin' Lovin' Wreck"

Jerry Lee Lewis1961 
The Searchers1964 
 

"One Broken Heart for Sale"

(written with Winfield Scott)

Elvis Presley1963 #11 pop, #21 R&B
Ronnie McDowell1997 
 

"Paralyzed"

(written with Elvis Presley)

Elvis Presley1957 #59 pop
Otis Blackwell1982 
Ronnie McDowell1991 
Graham Parker1994 
 

"Return to Sender"

(written with Winfield Scott)

Elvis Presley1962 #2 pop, #5 R&B
Rod Stewart1975 
Otis Blackwell1977 
Dave Edmunds1994 
 

"That's All I Am to You"

(written with Winfield Scott)

Ray Charles1965 
The Animals1966 
 

"You're the Apple of My Eye"

The Four Lovers1956 #62 pop
The Four Seasons1964 

Otis Blackwell

Induction Year: 1986