A Rockapaedia Obituary
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Otis Redding died aged twenty-six on tenth December nineteen-sixty-seven just three days after recording "The Dock of the Bay". He was survived by his wife Zelma and three children, Otis III, Dexter and Karla. The family postponed the funeral from December 15th to December 18th so that more could attend. The service took place at the City Auditorium in Macon, Georgia, U.S.A. More than 4,500 people came to the funeral, overflowing the 3,000-seat hall. . Otis Redding was entombed at his ranch in Round Oak, about 20 miles north of Macon, Georgia, U.S.A. Jerry Wexler delivered the eulogy On November 8th 1997, a memorial plaque was placed on the lakeside deck of the Madison convention center,
On December 9th nineteen-sixty-seven Otis's band appeared on the Upbeat television show produced in Cleveland. They played three concerts in two nights at a club called Leo's Casino. After a phone call with his wife and children, Otis Redding's next stop was Madison, Wisconsin; the next day, Sunday, December 10th they were to play at the Factory nightclub, near the University of Wisconsin.
Although the weather was poor, with heavy rain and fog, and despite warnings, the plane took off. Four miles from their destination at Truax Field in Madison, the pilot radioed for permission to land. Shortly thereafter, the plane crashed into Lake Monona. Bar-Kays member Ben Cauley, the accident's only survivor, was sleeping shortly before the accident. He woke just before impact to see bandmate Phalon Jones look out a window and exclaim, "Oh, no!" Cauley said the last thing he remembered before the crash was unbuckling his seat belt. He then found himself in water, grasping a seat cushion to keep afloat. A non-swimmer, he was unable to rescue the others. The cause of the crash was never determined.
Otis Redding's body was recovered the next day when the lake was searched.
Otis Redding was born on September 9th 1941 in Dawson, Georgia, USA, the fourth of six children, and the first son, of Otis Redding, Sr., and Fannie Mae Redding. Redding senior was a sharecropper and then worked at Robins Air Force Base, near Macon, and occasionally preached in local churches. When Otis was three the family moved to Tindall Heights, a predominantly African-American public housing project in Macon. At an early age, Otis Redding sang in the Vineville Baptist Church choir and learned guitar and piano. From age ten, he took drum and singing lessons. At Ballard-Hudson High School, he sang in the school band. Then each Sunday he earned six dollars by performing gospel songs for Macon radio station WIBB, and he won the five dollar prize in a teen talent show for 15 consecutive weeks. His passion was singing, and he often cited Little Richard and Sam Cooke as influences. Otis Redding said that he "would not be here" without Little Richard and that he "entered the music business because of Richard – he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff... My present music has a lot of him in it."
At age fifteen, Otis Redding left school to help financially support his family; his father had contracted tuberculosis and was often hospitalized, leaving his mother as the family's primary income earner. He worked as a well digger, as a gasoline station attendant and occasionally as a musician. Pianist Gladys Williams, a locally well-known musician in Macon and another who inspired Redding, often performed at the Hillview Springs Social Club, and Otis Redding sometimes played piano with her band there. Williams hosted Sunday talent shows, which Otis Redding attended with friends.
Otis Redding's breakthrough came in 1958 on disc jockey Hamp Swain's "The Teenage Party," a talent contest at the local Roxy and Douglass Theatres. Johnny Jenkins, a locally prominent guitarist, was in the audience and, finding Otis Redding's backing band lacking in musical skills, offered to accompany him. Otis Redding sang Little Richard's "Heebie Jeebies." The combination enabled Otis Redding to win Swain's talent contest for fifteen consecutive weeks; the cash prize was five dollars. Jenkins later worked as lead guitarist and played with Otis Redding during several later gigs. Otis Redding was soon invited to replace Willie Jones as frontman of Pat T. Cake and the Mighty Panthers, featuring Johnny Jenkins. Otis Redding was then hired by the Upsetters when Little Richard abandoned rock and roll in favor of gospel music. Otis Redding was well paid, making about twenty-five dollars per gig, but did not stay long.
At age nineteen, Otis Redding met fifteen year-old Zelma Atwood at "The Teenage Party." She gave birth to their son Dexter in the summer of 1960 and married Otis Redding in August 1961. In mid 1960, Otis moved to Los Angeles with his sister, Deborah, while Zelma and Otis' children stayed in Macon, Georgia. In Los Angeles Otis Redding wrote his first songs, including "She's Allright," "Tuff Enuff," "I'm Gettin' Hip" and "Gamma Lamma".
As a member of Pat T. Cake and the Mighty Panthers, Otis Redding toured the Southern United States on the chitlin' circuit, a string of venues that were hospitable to African-American entertainers during the era of racial segregation, which lasted into the early 1960s. Johnny Jenkins left the band to become the featured artist with the Pinetoppers. Around this time, Otis Redding met Phil Walden, the future founder of the recording company Phil Walden and Associates, and later Bobby Smith, who ran the small label Confederate Records. He signed with Confederate and recorded his second single, "Shout Bamalama" (a rewrite of "Gamma Lamma") and "Fat Girl", together with his band Otis and the Shooters. Around this time he and the Pinetoppers attended a "Battle of the Bands" show in Lakeside Park. Wayne Cochran, the only solo artist signed to Confederate, became the Pinetoppers' bassist.
When Walden started to look for a record label for Jenkins, Atlantic Records representative Joe Galkin showed interest and around 1962 sent him to the Stax studio in Memphis. Otis Redding drove Jenkins to the session, as the latter did not have a driver's license. The session with Jenkins, backed by Booker T. & the M.G.'s, was unproductive and ended early; Otis Redding was allowed to perform two songs. The first was "Hey Hey Baby", which studio chief Jim Stewart thought sounded too much like Little Richard. The second was "These Arms of Mine", featuring Jenkins on piano and Steve Cropper on guitar. Stewart later praised Otis Redding's performance, saying, "Everybody was fixin' to go home, but Joe Galkin insisted we give Otis a listen. There was something different; he really poured his soul into it." Stewart signed Otis Redding and released "These Arms of Mine", with "Hey Hey Baby" on the B-side. The single was released by Volt in October 1962 and charted in March the following year.
"These Arms of Mine" and other songs from the 1962–nineteen-sixty-three sessions were included on Otis Redding's debut album, Pain in My Heart. "That's What My Heart Needs" and "Mary's Little Lamb" were recorded in June nineteen-sixty-three. The title track, recorded in September nineteen-sixty-three, sparked copyright issues, as it sounded like Irma Thomas's "Ruler of My Heart". Despite this, Pain in My Heart was released on January 1st 1964, and peaked at number 20 on the Rythm&Blues chart and at number 85 on the Billboard Hot 100.
In November nineteen-sixty-three, Otis Redding, accompanied by his brother Rodgers and an associate, former boxer Sylvester Huckaby (a childhood friend of Redding's), travelled to New York to perform at the Apollo Theater for the recording of a live album for Atlantic Records. Otis Redding and his band were paid four hundred dollars per week, but had to pay four hundred & fifty dollars for sheet music for the house band, led by King Curtis, which left them in financial difficulty. The trio asked Walden for money. Huckaby's description of their circumstances living in the "big old raggedy" Hotel Theresa is quoted by Peter Guralnick in his book Sweet Soul Music. He noted meeting Muhammad Ali and other celebrities. Ben E. King, who was the headliner at the Apollo when Otis Redding performed there, gave him one hundred dollars when he learned about Otis Redding's financial situation. The resulting album featured King, the Coasters, Doris Troy, Rufus Thomas, the Falcons and Otis Redding. Around this time Walden and Rodgers were drafted by the army; Walden's younger brother Alan joined Otis Redding on tour, while Earl "Speedo" Simms replaced Rodgers as Otis Redding's road manager.
Most of Otis Redding's songs after "Security", from his first album, had a slow tempo. Disc jockey A. C. Moohah Williams accordingly labeled him "Mr. Pitiful", and subsequently Cropper and Otis Redding wrote the eponymous song. That and top 100 singles "Chained and Bound", "Come to Me" and "That's How Strong My Love Is" were included on Otis Redding's second studio album, 'The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads', released in March nineteen sixty-five. Jenkins began working independently from the group out of fear Galkin, Walden and Cropper would plagiarize his playing style, and so Cropper became Otis Redding's leading guitarist. Around nineteen sixty-five, Otis Redding co-wrote "I've Been Loving You Too Long" with Jerry Butler, the lead singer of the Impressions. That summer,Otis Redding and the studio crew arranged new songs for his next album. Ten of the eleven songs were written in a 24-hour period on July 9th and 10th in Memphis. Two songs, "Ole Man Trouble" and "Respect", had been finished earlier, during the 'Otis Blue' session. "Respect" and "I've Been Loving You" were later recut in stereo. The album, entitled 'Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Sou'l, was released in September nineteen sixty-five.' Otis Redding also released his much-loved cover of "A Change Is Gonna Come" in nineteen sixty-five.
Otis Redding's success allowed him to buy a 300-acre ranch in Georgia, which he called the "Big O Ranch." Stax was also doing well. Walden signed more musicians, including Percy Sledge, Johnnie Taylor, Clarence Carter and Eddie Floyd, and together with Otis Redding they founded two production companies. "Jotis Records" (derived from Joe Galkin and Otis) released four recordings, two by Arthur Conley and one by Billy Young and Loretta Williams. The other was named Redwal Music (derived from Redding and Walden), which was shut down shortly after its creation. Since Afro-Americans still formed the majority of fans, Otis Redding chose to perform at Whisky a Go Go on the Sunset Strip in Los Angeles. Otis Redding was one of the first soul artists to perform for rock audiences in the western United States. His performance received critical acclaim, including positive press in the Los Angeles Times, and he penetrated mainstream popular culture. Bob Dylan attended the performance and offered Otis Redding an altered version of one of his songs, "Just Like a Woman".
In late nineteen sixty-six, Otis Redding returned to the Stax studio and recorded several tracks, including "Try a Little Tenderness". This song had previously been covered by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, and the publishers unsuccessfully tried to stop Otis Redding from recording the song from a "negro perspective". Today often considered his signature song, Jim Stewart reckoned, "If there's one song, one performance that really sort of sums up Otis and what he's about, it's 'Try a Little Tenderness'. That one performance is so special and so unique that it expresses who he is." On this version Otis Redding was backed by Booker T. & the M.G.'s, while staff producer Isaac Hayes worked on the arrangement. "Try a Little Tenderness" was included on his next album, 'Complete & Unbelievable:The Otis Redding Dictionary of Soul'. The song and the album were critically and commercially successful—the former peaked at number 25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and at number 4 on the Rythm&Blues chart.
The spring of nineteen sixty-six marked the first time that Stax booked concerts for its artists. The majority of the group arrived in London on March 13, but Otis Redding had flown in days earlier for interviews, such as at "The Eamonn Andrews Show". When the crew arrived in London, the Beatles sent a limousine to pick them up. Booking agent Bill Graham proposed that Otis Redding play at the Fillmore Auditorium in late nineteen sixty-six. The gig was commercially and critically successful, paying Otis Redding around $800 to $1000 a night. It prompted Graham to remark afterwards, "That was the best gig I ever put on in my entire life." Otis Redding began touring Europe six months later.
In nineteen-sixty-seven, Otis Redding performed at the influential Monterey Pop Festival as the closing act on Saturday night, the second day of the festival. He was invited through the efforts of promoter Jerry Wexler. Until that point, Otis Redding was still performing mainly for black audiences. His act, which included his own song "Respect" and a version of the Rolling Stones' "Satisfaction", was well received by the audience. Otis Redding and his backing band, Booker T. & the M.G.'s with the Mar-Keys horn section, opened with Sam Cooke's "Shake", after which he delivered an impulsive speech, asking the audience if they were the "love crowd" and looking for a big response. The ballad "I've Been Loving You" followed. The last song was "Try a Little Tenderness", including an additional chorus. "I got to go, y'all, I don't wanna go", said Redding and left the stage of his last major concert. According to Sweet Soul Music, musicians including Brian Jones and Jimi Hendrix were captivated by his performance; Robert Christgau wrote in Esquire, "The Love Crowd screamed one's mind to the heavens."
Before Monterey, Otis Redding wanted to record with Conley, but Stax was against the idea. The two moved from Memphis to Macon to continue writing. The result was "Sweet Soul Music" which peaked at number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100. By that time Otis Redding had developed polyps on his larynx, which he tried to treat with tea and lemon or honey. He was hospitalized in September nineteen-sixty-seven at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York to undergo surgery.
In early December nineteen-sixty-seven, Otis Redding again recorded at Stax. One new song was " Dock of the Bay", which was written with Steve Cropper while they were staying with their friend, Earl "Speedo" Simms, on a houseboat in Sausalito. Otis Redding was inspired by the Beatles album Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and tried to create a similar sound, against the label's wishes. His wife Zelma disliked its atypical melody. The Stax crew were also dissatisfied with the new sound; Stewart thought that it was not Rythm&Blues, while bassist Donald "Duck" Dunn feared it would damage Stax's reputation. However, Otis Redding wanted to expand his musical style and thought it was his best song, correctly believing it would top the charts.