In The Style Of Otis Rush

By Miguel Ángel Ariza

If last week we told you that Albert King was a lefty who played a right-handed guitar by simply turning it around to accommodate it so his right hand was used to slide down the neck which made him unique, I think it is fair to say that today’s protagonist, Otis Rush is exactly the same, making him equally exceptional.  

And obviously, if we highlighted how difficult it is to copy Albert’s tone and way of playing we must warn you that with Mr. Rush the same thing will happen again. That way of playing the electric guitar, with the first string up top and the sixth below, is going to ruin our techniques in cloning his style.

Perhaps Otis would make it a bit easier for us because he, unlike King, used a standard tuning in his guitars...although that’s the only good news we can give you as trying to imitate those tonal ‘bendings’  half done from top to bottom is going to be more complicated.  

As for his guitars, we are faced with an artist with a certain bipolarity. Since the start of his career until he retired in the 21st century he used almost indistinctly 2 types of guitars which differ greatly in the tones that we can get out of them: the semi-hollow guitars and the Fender Stratocasters.

Over the years we have been able to see him with various semi-hollow Gibsons such as the ES-345 and the ES-355. He has even flirted with other brands which have built great instruments along the lines of the Spanish Electric by Gibson like the Yamaha SA50.  



But as we were saying, since his first recordings in the 50s, we can perfectly tell the sound of a Fender Stratocaster yet, as the album covers on some of his albums show, he has also sought that Fender singing tone in a Fender Jaguar.   

Regarding his favourite amps, we have heard in one of his interviews, near the end of his career, praising his old Fender Bassman 4X10. In fact, we have seen him in pictures using a ‘clone’ of this amp made by the boutique brand Victoria, although he has also taken advantage of the occasional Mesa Boogie.

In any case, whatever gear he used, the Otis Rush sound was always in his hands. Beyond his main feature being perhaps in his wild bendings, it is a pleasure to hear an authentic ‘first class’ bluesman always searching the feeling and note, as our dear Raimundo Amador would say, ‘it is simply exquisite’. Far beyond scales, tempo, cadence, technique, and the lessons surrounding the blues which they teach in schools, there are guys like Otis Rush...guys who don’t play the blues; they are the blues.