Friday, September 9, 2011

20 Things You May Not Have Known About Otis Redding

If Otis Redding hadn’t met his end in a plane crash over Madison, Wisconsin, on December 10, 1967, he may have been celebrating his 70th birthday today. Although The King of Soul is long gone, his raggedy growl continues to rip hearts in half and jolt feet onto the dance floor. Here are twenty trivial tidbits to help make your personal dictionary of Otis Redding complete and unbelievable.


1. After Little Richard deserted his band The Upsetters to start preaching instead of rocking, Otis Redding shimmied in to sing with his idol’s former band.

2. Otis Redding first stepped foot in Stax after chauffeuring Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers to the studio for a recording session. When it ended 40 minutes ahead of schedule, Redding asked if he could cut a song. Although producer and Stax co-founder Jim Stewart wasn’t bowled over by the recording, he released “These Arms of Mine”, nonetheless. The single became Otis Redding’s first top twenty hit on the R&B charts.

3. As amazing of a performer as Otis Redding was, he was terribly intimidated by the explosive stage work of Sam and Dave. After a tour in which he had to follow the duo night after night, he reportedly told his manager Phil Walden, “Don’t you ever put me with them motherfuckers again.”

4. Otis was taking a physical exam required for a life insurance policy when his frequent collaborator Steve Cropper suggested the band cut a version of The Rolling Stones’ recent monster-hit “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction”. By the time Redding returned from his physical, Cropper had the backing arranged and Otis was ready to lay down his vocal.

5. Keith Richards wrote the classic fuzz guitar riff of “Satisfaction” for brass, but did not get a chance to hear his song arranged the intended way until Otis Redding covered it. In his autobiography Life, Richards wrote that he didn’t like “Satisfaction” until he heard Otis do it.

6. Otis Redding paid tribute to another British institution when he covered The Beatles’ “Day Tripper” on his Dictionary of Soul album in 1966. The Beatles were equally moved by him; George Harrison revealed that the “Drive My Car” riff was inspired by the one on Redding’s original version of “Respect”.

7. Otis Redding first heard a soul artist tackle the standard “Try a Little Tenderness” on the 1964 L.P. Sam Cooke at the Copa, which he listened to so often he literally wore it out and had to purchase a replacement copy.

8. Otis Redding hired singer/pianist Katie Webster for an opening slot on his 1966 tour when he first heard her singing from his dressing room at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles, Louisiana. He dashed out to hire her so fast that he didn’t get a chance to put on his pants first.

9. Among Otis Redding’s nicknames were The Big O, The Mad Man from Macon, Rockhouse Redding, and The King of Soul.

10. After soul artists started dubbing the upcoming Monterey Pop Festival “whitey’s festival,” Otis Redding was hastily booked in an attempt to stamp out further accusations of racial bias.

11. When Otis landed in England with the Stax/Volt Review in 1967, he was greeted by The Beatles’ personal limo, which they’d sent along to escort him and the other members of the package tour from the airport.

12. Although he hated the food, Redding supposedly loved England… particularly its rainy weather. He told journalist Jim Delehant that if he ever decided to relocate from the states, he’d settle in England.

13. A strict professional, Redding reportedly fined band members who showed up late for gigs.

14. Elvis Presley’s eight-year reign as “world’s best male vocalist” on Melody Maker’s annual pop poll ended in September 1967 when readers voted Otis Redding the new king of the mic.

15. By 1967, Otis Redding still hadn’t broken into the pop top-twenty with a record of his own. However, he did co-write and produce “Sweet Soul Music”, a #2 pop hit for his protégé Arthur Conley, which included the name check, “Spotlight on Otis Redding now, singing fa fa fa fa fa fa fa fa.”

16. Redding’s incredible success at the Monterey Pop Festival inspired him to write a crossover song that might finally win over the white audience. After spinning Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band over and over to uncover its hit formula, he wrote “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. The next day he called his manager and told him, “Phil, I wrote that fuckin’ million seller we was talkin’ about.”

17. On March 16, 1968, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” became the first posthumous number one hit in Billboard charts history.

18. The pallbearers at Otis Redding’s funeral were fellow soul legends Solomon Burke, Don Covay, Sam Moore, Joe Simon, Percy Sledge, Johnnie Taylor, and Joe Tex.

19. Shortly after Redding’s death, journalist Ritchie Yorke not only accused Jagger and Richards of stealing “Satisfaction” from Otis Redding, but charged that the King of Soul recorded his version before The Stones. Of course, there wasn’t a lick of truth in Yorke’s bizarre accusation, which Steve Cropper corroborated in a subsequent interview with Rolling Stone.

20. In 1982, The Reddings had a #55 hit with their cover of “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”. Otis’s sons Dexter and Otis III were the first artists to have a hit with a number-one song originated by their parent.
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