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Otis Rush, Influential Chicago Blues Guitarist, Dead at 84

American Blues musician Otis Rush at the Petrillo Band Shell, Chicago, Illinois, June 11, 1988. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

Chicago blues guitarist Otis Rush passed away due to complications from stroke that he initially suffered in 2003. Rush’s death was confirmed by his wife, Masaki Rush, who published a statement on the musician’s website. He was 84 years old.

One of the most influential blues guitarists and a pioneer of the Chicago “West Side Sound,” Rush’s 1956 single “I Can’t Quit You Baby” charted at No. 6 on the Billboard R&B charts, bringing him to national, and international, acclaim. As a left-handed guitarist at a time when left-handed guitars were uncommon, Rush developed a unique style of playing by holding his guitar upside-down, with the low E strong at the bottom and high E string on top.

Born in Philadelphia, Mississippi in 1935, Rush moved to Chicago in 1949, where he got his start in music after seeing Muddy Waters live. His first single “I Can’t Quit You Baby” was released by Cobra Records in 1956. The hit song has since been covered by bands like Led Zeppelin, who released a cover of the song on their 1969 debut album. In the years after, Rush released songs like “Double Trouble” and “All Your Love (I Miss Loving),” which are now considered blues classics.

With Cobra Records, Rush helped establish Chicago’s “West Side Sound” alongside labelmates like Magic Sam and Buddy Guy. His debut album This One’s a Good One was released by Cobra in 1968 and he continued to release music with labels like Duke Records and Bullfrog Records in the 1970s. In 1999, Rush released Any Place I’m Goin’, his last studio effort. In the years since its release, Rush continued to be an active live performer until health issues forced him into retirement.