Otis Redding, Jr.
Our Tribute to Otis Redding
Born in Dawson, Georgia, Otis Redding's father was a Baptist Minister which explains Otis' musical influence. At the age of five (5) his family moved to Macon, Georgia and at an early age he began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Otis attended Ballad Hudson High School and participated in the school band. Determined to help his family financially, he dropped out of high school and went on to work with Little Richard's former band, the Upsetters. He began to compete in local talent shows for the five ($5) dollar prize. After winning 15 times straight, he was no longer allowed to compete.
In 1959, Otis sang at the Grand Duke Club after his exposure in the church choir. Otis joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers in 1960, and would also sing at the "Teenage Party" talent shows sponsored by the King Bee, Hamp Swain, a local celebrity disc jockey, on Saturday mornings initially at the Roxy Theater and later at the Douglas Theatre in Macon.
After years of ambition and drive, Otis Redding's sacrifices paid off. He appeared throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean. His concert tours were among the biggest box office successes of any touring performer during his time. He was nominated in three categories by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) for recordings he made during 1967. 1968 was destined to be the greatest year of his success with appearances slated at such locations as New York's Philharmonic Hall and Washington's Constitution Hall. Redding was booked for several major television network appearances including The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Show, and a television special starring Redding.
In 1970, Warner Brothers released an album of live recordings from the Monterey International Pop Festival, June 1967, featuring Otis Redding on one side and Jimi Hendrix on the other. This record is evidence that the hip white audiences, better known as the "love crowd", were digging Otis Redding just as much as the black audiences for whom he had always played. His energy and excitement, his showmanship, and his relationship with the crowd made Redding a master as a performer who had the rare gift of being able to reach audiences the world over.
In 1995, Atlantic Records released "The Best of Otis Redding" which was a two record set including many of his most famous songs.
Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers drove to Memphis, Tennessee for a recording session in October 1962 at Stax Records. The session was not going well, so Jim Stewart, Stax co-owner, allowed Otis to cut a couple of songs with the studio time that had been booked. The result was "These Arms of Mine", released in 1962. This was the first of many hit singles (including classics "I've Been Loving You Too Long", "Respect", and "Try A Little Tenderness") that Redding enjoyed during his tragically short lifetime. After nine months, he was invited to perform at the Apollo Theatre for a live recording and would go on to show his dance movements with "Shake" and "Satisfaction". When Otis was done, the sold-out audience would shout, scream, and dance until Redding came back on stage for an encore performance.
It was his international songs, all composed, written, and arranged by Redding, that lead to his commercial success. Three of his compositions alone accounted for over three and one half million record sales. Today, his songs are being recorded by persons in various fields of music, including country, jazz, and pop.
THE SONG --- It was unlike anything he had ever written, influenced by Redding's admiration for the Beatles' classic "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" album. Otis played The Beatles' album constantly during a week he had spent on a houseboat in Sausalito when performing at San Francisco's Fillmore West Theater in the summer of 1967. Just sittin' on the dock, looking out at the bay, it's easy to see where Otis got the inspiration for the song,
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay".
It had a lilt, memorable hook, and a great story. While it was typical of Redding's previous recordings, it signaled his creative expansion as a writer and artist. That song posthumously went on to become Otis Redding's biggest worldwide hit and signature. Recording artist, Michael Bolton, released Otis' ever popular "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay" for his first single release from his album entitled "The Hunger" and took it into the nations Top 20, 1987.
In September 1987, Atlantic Records released "The Otis Redding Story", a two volume record set featuring Otis' most unique and rare hits such as "I've Been Loving You Too Long", "Respect", "Pain in my Heart", "Satisfaction" and of course "(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay." This was Otis' final recording before his plane crash in December 1967. The album set has been prerecorded and mixed in stereo giving Redding's music a more powerful sound.
Above all Otis was a family man. He met his wife Zelma Atwood in 1959 and later married in August 1961. Together they have four children: Dexter, Karla, Otis III, and Demetria who was adopted after his death. His family was close to his heart and soul. In 1965, he moved them into a spacious 300 acre property, "The Big O Ranch" in Round Oak, Georgia, affectionately named after "The Big O" himself.
Sons, Dexter and Otis III are active music producers and songwriters, both traveling internationally. Karla is a successful and influential entrepreneur having found and jointly managing the day to day operations of Karla's Shoe Boutique with her mother and partner, in downtown Macon, Georgia. Zelma, of course, is the executrix over the Redding Estate where she manages the daily requests for songs in commercials, music sampling, the use of his name, image, the Otis Redding Memorial Fund, and the Scholarship Foundation. Demetria is a public relations director for the American Cancer Society in Macon, GA.
As president of his own publishing firm, Redwal Music Co., Inc., he was very active in the company's operation and directly responsible for the company's leadership in the music publishing field. To date, the company has copyrighted over 200 commercially successful songs and published many songs which have sold in excess of one million copies each.
The idea that music could be a universal force, bringing together different races and cultures, was central to Otis' personal philosophy and reflected in his everyday life. At a time when it may not have been considered politically correct, Redding had a white manager, Phil Walden, and a racially mixed band. He took care of business, setting up his own publishing and record label, Jotis Records, making unprecedented moves for a black music artist in the '60s.
While it was not Otis' prime motivation, he was seen as a role model by blacks. He was someone who got paid and paid well without the usual horror stories of being ripped off by promoters, agents, managers, or record company executives.
Otis Redding's prowess as a businessman led him to form his own label, 1965, Jotis records. In addition to his many business interests in the fields related to music, Otis Redding was engaged in other business interests in his native state such as real estate, investments, stocks, and bonds.
His business acumen meant that Otis knew how to earn and invest his money, unlike some of the other soul artists of the '60s. He was able to purchase a 300 acre farm in Round Oak, just outside of Macon, Georgia, previously mentioned. Aside from the two-story brick home, the farm had livestock, and a three and a half acre lake with fish. Another Redding acquisition was the private plane in which he was riding on that memorable day, December 10, 1967.
Who knows where Otis Redding's career path might have taken him. All we know is that when his twin-engine Beechcraft crashed into Lake Monona, in Madison, Wisconsin, December 10, 1967... The World Lost A Musical Legend!
More about Otis Redding
Dawson is in Southwest Georgia