Shuggie Otis - Guitar Heroes A-Z

In 1971, psychedelic soul wunderkind Shuggie Otis (son of blues/jazz kingpin Johnny Otis) was still a teenager when he tracked a lead guitar break that has endured as perhaps the most hypnotic solo section in R&B history. We’re talking about the kaleidoscopic twin-guitar fadeout on “Strawberry Letter 23,” a gem of a song that would enjoy its biggest popularity (and even crack the Top Ten) when the Brothers Johnson resurrected it virtually note-for-note in 1977. (On their version, producer Quincy Jones hired jazz great Lee Ritenour to replicate Otis’ challenging lead parts.)
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On the original cut, Otis, armed with a Gibson ES-335, a Fender Super Reverb, and two tracks of analog tape, stacked a higher part (similar to Guitar 2 below) atop a lower part (similar to Guitar 1) to generate a mesmerizing harmonic progression composed of shimmering sixteenth-note triplet phrases. Each phrase sounds four times per measure. (Notice that the second pulse of each six-note grouping is a rest.)

If you can play either part separately, generating the two-part composite lick (highly recommended!) is easy if you have a looper or, even better, a multi-track recorder. (Mixing tip: To make the repeating four-bar phrase even more epic sounding, take inspiration from Otis and gradually add trippy effects such as flange or phase shifting to the entire mix as you slowly pull back the master fader.)

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