Artist Details

Otis Clay

A Chicago-based vocalist whose music was steeped in Southern gospel and deep soul, Otis Clay never had a major pop hit, but he was a periodic visitor to the R&B charts and an enduring presence in the world of blues and vintage soul, while also enjoying a long career in spiritual music. Clay was born on February 11, 1942 in Waxhaw, Mississippi, where the church was a vital part of his family's life. In 1953, Clay's family moved to Muncie, Indiana, where he began performing with a local gospel group. In 1957, Clay and his family relocated to Chicago, where he joined the Golden Jubilaires, the first of many gospel groups he would work with in the Windy City. Like many gospel singers, Clay was interested in performing secular music, where one could perform to bigger audiences for bigger paychecks, and in 1962 he cut several R&B sides for producer Carl Davis, who expected to land a deal with Columbia Records; however, Columbia opted not to release the sessions. In 1965, Maurice Dollison, who had sung in a few gospel groups with Clay and recorded R&B material under the name Cash McCall, introduced him to George Leaner, head of the independent One-Derful! Records, and Leaner signed Clay to a record deal. Clay's first single for One-Derful!, "Flame in Your Heart," fared well locally but went unnoticed on the national charts, and it wasn't until his fifth release for the label, 1967's "That's How It Is (When You're in Love)," that he finally scored a hit that landed on the Billboard R&B charts, peaking at number 34.