Horace Ott, record producer, arranger, conductor, composer, and pianist, was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina. He was educated at John Ford High School and graduated from Wilkinson High School in Orangeburg where he wrote an arrangement for Duke Ellington’s “Satin Doll”. Ott matriculated at South Carolina State University earning a Bachelor’s degree.
While on leave in New York from the U.S. Army, Horace states that he “accidentally rediscovered Gloria, my childhood friend from home in St. Matthews. We began a lifetime together of music and family.”
Ott further states, “While I enjoy a life that allows me to perform, compose, and orchestrally arrange music, this life also allows me to artistically demonstrate my God given talents to the world in many genres of music. I consider myself a very fortunate musician to have received so many honors for simply doing my job. I also feel a sense of guilt, since I tend to enjoy every minute of this, my self-chosen, but, God-given, life’s work.”
Horace was privileged to arrange, record and/or conduct with some of his favorite artists. Among them are Sam Cook, Nat King Cole, Count Basie with Joe Williams, Dizzy Gillespie, Nina Simone, Shirley Bassey, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis, Roberto Carlos, George Benson, Jerry Butler, Carla Thomas, the Shirelles, Little Anthony and the Imperials, Joe Defrancesco, the Stylistics, and others.
Some of Ott’s arrangements and/or recordings range from “You Don’t Have to Be a Star” for Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis; recording two heavyweight boxing champions–Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier; to “Lush Life” for Joe Williams.
He has music in a variety of productions to include 22 Nina Simone albums, 40 Eric Burden and the Animals albums, 80 albums by Santa Esmeralda featuring Leroy Gomez and one song, “YMCA,” that is in more than 200 titled albums. Ott’s arrangement of “YMCA” by the Village People is now circling the earth in a time capsule.
Special and greatly treasured moments for Horace Ott were his performances at the White House, Carnegie Hall, Radio City Music Hall, “The Grammy’s,” “The Essence Awards,” the John F. Kennedy Performing Arts Center, the David Letterman Show, Saturday Night Live, and the Jackson Family Christmas Show.
Ott recalls a memorable two-week stint at the Tropicana Hotel in Las Vegas with the Count Basie Orchestra and Basie’s legendary crooner, Joe Williams. After Ott collaborated with Williams on the singer’s 1970 album “Worth Waiting For,” Williams invited Ott to play the piano and conduct the Basie Orchestra while he performed songs for the album.