Friday, 14 December 2007

REMEMBERING OTIS

It's 40 years this week since the tragic untimely death of Otis Redding. Here's how his widow, friends and extended family at Stax Records remembered him:



MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1967 was a typically balmy winter’s day. The weather was nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit at midday – too warm for fur coats, but perfect for sunglasses and sharkskin suits, particularly when you put the top down to cruise into work at three in the afternoon, when the sun was at its highest peak. Stax Records, a movie theatre-cum-recording studio a few miles east of the Mississippi, was poppin’ that month: Carla Thomas and Albert King had released Top 100 hits, while The Charmels’ As Long As I’ve Got You and Jeanne And The Darlings’ Soul Girl were making local waves. But in the hallways at 926 East McLemore Avenue the buzz was all about one artist, Otis Redding, who’d returned to the studio for a marathon three-week session following surgery to remove throat polyps. The mood at Stax was stultifying, until Otis stepped up to the mike sometime after lunch and started laying down more than a dozen tracks, including the potentially career-changing tune (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, a pop-inspired stylistic departure from his previous gut-bucket soul oeuvre.


‘When Otis had the chance to work that long, my kids and I would come into Memphis and stay with him at the Holiday Inn for three or four days at a time,” says Zelma Redding, who met the Macon, Georgia native in 1960 and married him a year later. “Stax was a family – you could feel the warmth, and how these musicians worked together and hung out together,” she says. “The musicians – Wayne [Jackson, trumpeter] and Andrew [Love, saxophonist], and Isaac [Hayes, then a staff songwriter] worked so hard, but they had so much fun working! It wasn’t about money – it was about doing something they loved to do. Then when Otis came in, it was like God had walked in. It was a great feeling.” That reception was a far cry from Otis’s humble beginnings at Stax, just seven years earlier. “Johnny Jenkins And The Pinetoppers pulled up, and Otis was the guy that carried the food and the cloths,” remembers organist Booker T. Jones. “But what I remember most is the end of the session with Otis singing his demo of This arms Of Mine, that moment of him singing that song. It was one of those moments. You’re not thinking that it’s gonna sell a lot of records. You’re just thinking it’s all heart. Nobody hardly paid any attention to him. It was like, ‘Well, we got to do this. The guy’s been sitting here waiting all day, Let’s see what he sounds like.’”


He had on overalls and a plaid shirt, like he was milking a cow,” adds session bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, “but he took a song and just kicked your ass with it.” “My hair lifted about three inches – I couldn’t believe this guy’s voice,” says Stax guitarist/producer Steve Cropper, who with Jones, Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson, Jr, formed instrumental group Booker T. And The M.G.’s, the nucleus of the Stax sound. “Back then, we were living in a two-room apartment in Macon, and we barely had money to put food on the table,” recalls Zelma. “Otis said, ‘I’m taking Johnny to Memphis,’ and I probably said goodbye. Otis Redding always believed in Otis Redding – he’d tell me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna make you happy one day,’ and I was like, Lord have mercy, we could starve to death! That’s just how positive he was!”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay

In its soft Southern drawl, Jones says it best: “When Otis came into the picture, life became about more than just sound. We became friends, and because he seemed to be a person with a mission, we sort of picked up that mission and it became our mission. His intent was so strong and so powerful when we were recording, it translated to more than just music. I’d never been with anybody that had that much desire to express emotion. It’s the longing. It translates to the listener and the player and anyone who hears it, and when that happens, millions of people listen.” (…) Otis took the label to another level. He put a spark under Stax, there’s no question about it,” he explains. “With all due respect to the great artists that came to those doors, Otis Redding was the one that everybody in that band looked forward to coming back to town. He had the greatest sense of rhythm and timing of anybody I’ve ever worked with. His feel of what he wanted to hear the horns do was unbelievable. He would come up with riffs, and we’d go, boy, they’ll never be able to play that. And they would be awesome. When he’d go sing and they’d play that lick, it was amazing what he’d pull off. He never ran out of ideas. Try A Little Tenderness – that song had been around since the ‘30s or whatever. It became a new song. It was amazing.”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



Try a Little Tenderness

Otis’s dates in early December ’67 were nothing out of the ordinary. He and his backing group, Memphis teenagers The Bar-Kays, flew to Nashville for a gig on Friday, December 8. On Saturday they landed in Cleveland, Ohio, to tape an episode of Upbeat, a local TV music show, before playing at Leo’s Casino. Sunday morning, the band – without bassist James Alexander, who took a commercial flight – boarded Redding’s twin-engine Beechcraft, headed to Madison, Wisconsin for another show. “It was his second plane,” says Zelma. “He worked Thursday through Sunday, and he’d come back to Memphis early on Monday to get The Bar-Kays’ saxophonist Phalon Jones, drummer Carl Cunningham, guitarist Jimmy King, and organist Ronnie Caldwell, all just 18 years old, wouldn’t graduate with the rest of their senior class. On their way to Wisconsin, their plane plunged into in icy Lake Monona along with the 26-year old star.


‘I could see something floating in the water, and I got colder and colder trying to swim toward it,” says Bar-Kays trumpeter Ben Cauley, the only one on-board to survive the crash. “My head was bleeding pretty bad, and the current kept pushing all of us apart. I was in the water for about 25 minutes. I got so cold I could hardly hold on. I gave up, and at that moment, one of the fellas onshore grabbed me. I was thinking, Did they get everybody? By the time we got to shore, the hospital people had showed up. They asked, ‘Who are you?’ I said, Otis Redding and The Bar-Kays, out of Memphis. Is everybody all right? And they said no, everybody but me was dead.” Jon Scott, then a Dj at the FM-100 radio station, was, like most Memphians, devastated by the news. “I remember thinking it couldn’t possibly be true,” he says. “I had met Otis. I’d hung round him at the studio. He was, without question, the most captivating artist I’d ever seen, a true genius, and he died way too soon, way too early. We’d lost Buddy Holly the same way, but Otis was just too close to home.” “The crash happened on a Sunday,” says Cauley, “and I was flying home [later] that same week, so shook up about it that if the plane did a curve, I curved with it. I’d just turned 19, and it hit me like a ton of bricks to have to face reality, but James Alexander and I put the band back together again.”


A few months before the 40th anniversary of Otis Redding’s death, an exhibition, I’ve Got Dreams To Remember, chronicling the singer’s ascent to superstardom, opened at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, not far from the bronze statue of Otis on the banks of the Ogeechee River. The Bar-Kays, with Ben Cauley on trumpet, joined Otis’s sons Dexter and Otis Redding III on-stage for a fundraiser for the Big O Youth Educational Dream Foundation, while Zelma Redding eulogised her husband as “an everyday country boy – regular people. Otis was just a down-to-earth, loving person. When he came back home, it wasn’t, ‘I’m different – I’m a star.’ He didn’t live that ego. The average person can really feel like they knew Otis Redding when they listen to him sing, because he sang from the heart. Back when he cut These Arms Of Mine, I never thought he would hold the legacy he holds today, but this is what Otis was born to do.”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



These Arms of Mine

{Extracts from MOJO Music Magazine, DEC 07 - JAN 08}

It's 40 years this week since the tragic untimely death of Otis Redding. Here's how his widow, friends and extended family at Stax Records remembered him:



MEMPHIS, TENNESSEE: WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 22, 1967 was a typically balmy winter’s day. The weather was nearly 65 degrees Fahrenheit at midday – too warm for fur coats, but perfect for sunglasses and sharkskin suits, particularly when you put the top down to cruise into work at three in the afternoon, when the sun was at its highest peak. Stax Records, a movie theatre-cum-recording studio a few miles east of the Mississippi, was poppin’ that month: Carla Thomas and Albert King had released Top 100 hits, while The Charmels’ As Long As I’ve Got You and Jeanne And The Darlings’ Soul Girl were making local waves. But in the hallways at 926 East McLemore Avenue the buzz was all about one artist, Otis Redding, who’d returned to the studio for a marathon three-week session following surgery to remove throat polyps. The mood at Stax was stultifying, until Otis stepped up to the mike sometime after lunch and started laying down more than a dozen tracks, including the potentially career-changing tune (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay, a pop-inspired stylistic departure from his previous gut-bucket soul oeuvre.


‘When Otis had the chance to work that long, my kids and I would come into Memphis and stay with him at the Holiday Inn for three or four days at a time,” says Zelma Redding, who met the Macon, Georgia native in 1960 and married him a year later. “Stax was a family – you could feel the warmth, and how these musicians worked together and hung out together,” she says. “The musicians – Wayne [Jackson, trumpeter] and Andrew [Love, saxophonist], and Isaac [Hayes, then a staff songwriter] worked so hard, but they had so much fun working! It wasn’t about money – it was about doing something they loved to do. Then when Otis came in, it was like God had walked in. It was a great feeling.” That reception was a far cry from Otis’s humble beginnings at Stax, just seven years earlier. “Johnny Jenkins And The Pinetoppers pulled up, and Otis was the guy that carried the food and the cloths,” remembers organist Booker T. Jones. “But what I remember most is the end of the session with Otis singing his demo of This arms Of Mine, that moment of him singing that song. It was one of those moments. You’re not thinking that it’s gonna sell a lot of records. You’re just thinking it’s all heart. Nobody hardly paid any attention to him. It was like, ‘Well, we got to do this. The guy’s been sitting here waiting all day, Let’s see what he sounds like.’”


He had on overalls and a plaid shirt, like he was milking a cow,” adds session bassist Donald ‘Duck’ Dunn, “but he took a song and just kicked your ass with it.” “My hair lifted about three inches – I couldn’t believe this guy’s voice,” says Stax guitarist/producer Steve Cropper, who with Jones, Dunn, and drummer Al Jackson, Jr, formed instrumental group Booker T. And The M.G.’s, the nucleus of the Stax sound. “Back then, we were living in a two-room apartment in Macon, and we barely had money to put food on the table,” recalls Zelma. “Otis said, ‘I’m taking Johnny to Memphis,’ and I probably said goodbye. Otis Redding always believed in Otis Redding – he’d tell me, ‘Don’t worry, I’m gonna make you happy one day,’ and I was like, Lord have mercy, we could starve to death! That’s just how positive he was!”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



(Sittin On) The Dock of the Bay

In its soft Southern drawl, Jones says it best: “When Otis came into the picture, life became about more than just sound. We became friends, and because he seemed to be a person with a mission, we sort of picked up that mission and it became our mission. His intent was so strong and so powerful when we were recording, it translated to more than just music. I’d never been with anybody that had that much desire to express emotion. It’s the longing. It translates to the listener and the player and anyone who hears it, and when that happens, millions of people listen.” (…) Otis took the label to another level. He put a spark under Stax, there’s no question about it,” he explains. “With all due respect to the great artists that came to those doors, Otis Redding was the one that everybody in that band looked forward to coming back to town. He had the greatest sense of rhythm and timing of anybody I’ve ever worked with. His feel of what he wanted to hear the horns do was unbelievable. He would come up with riffs, and we’d go, boy, they’ll never be able to play that. And they would be awesome. When he’d go sing and they’d play that lick, it was amazing what he’d pull off. He never ran out of ideas. Try A Little Tenderness – that song had been around since the ‘30s or whatever. It became a new song. It was amazing.”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



Try a Little Tenderness

Otis’s dates in early December ’67 were nothing out of the ordinary. He and his backing group, Memphis teenagers The Bar-Kays, flew to Nashville for a gig on Friday, December 8. On Saturday they landed in Cleveland, Ohio, to tape an episode of Upbeat, a local TV music show, before playing at Leo’s Casino. Sunday morning, the band – without bassist James Alexander, who took a commercial flight – boarded Redding’s twin-engine Beechcraft, headed to Madison, Wisconsin for another show. “It was his second plane,” says Zelma. “He worked Thursday through Sunday, and he’d come back to Memphis early on Monday to get The Bar-Kays’ saxophonist Phalon Jones, drummer Carl Cunningham, guitarist Jimmy King, and organist Ronnie Caldwell, all just 18 years old, wouldn’t graduate with the rest of their senior class. On their way to Wisconsin, their plane plunged into in icy Lake Monona along with the 26-year old star.


‘I could see something floating in the water, and I got colder and colder trying to swim toward it,” says Bar-Kays trumpeter Ben Cauley, the only one on-board to survive the crash. “My head was bleeding pretty bad, and the current kept pushing all of us apart. I was in the water for about 25 minutes. I got so cold I could hardly hold on. I gave up, and at that moment, one of the fellas onshore grabbed me. I was thinking, Did they get everybody? By the time we got to shore, the hospital people had showed up. They asked, ‘Who are you?’ I said, Otis Redding and The Bar-Kays, out of Memphis. Is everybody all right? And they said no, everybody but me was dead.” Jon Scott, then a Dj at the FM-100 radio station, was, like most Memphians, devastated by the news. “I remember thinking it couldn’t possibly be true,” he says. “I had met Otis. I’d hung round him at the studio. He was, without question, the most captivating artist I’d ever seen, a true genius, and he died way too soon, way too early. We’d lost Buddy Holly the same way, but Otis was just too close to home.” “The crash happened on a Sunday,” says Cauley, “and I was flying home [later] that same week, so shook up about it that if the plane did a curve, I curved with it. I’d just turned 19, and it hit me like a ton of bricks to have to face reality, but James Alexander and I put the band back together again.”


A few months before the 40th anniversary of Otis Redding’s death, an exhibition, I’ve Got Dreams To Remember, chronicling the singer’s ascent to superstardom, opened at the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in Macon, not far from the bronze statue of Otis on the banks of the Ogeechee River. The Bar-Kays, with Ben Cauley on trumpet, joined Otis’s sons Dexter and Otis Redding III on-stage for a fundraiser for the Big O Youth Educational Dream Foundation, while Zelma Redding eulogised her husband as “an everyday country boy – regular people. Otis was just a down-to-earth, loving person. When he came back home, it wasn’t, ‘I’m different – I’m a star.’ He didn’t live that ego. The average person can really feel like they knew Otis Redding when they listen to him sing, because he sang from the heart. Back when he cut These Arms Of Mine, I never thought he would hold the legacy he holds today, but this is what Otis was born to do.”





Free file hosting by Ripway.com



These Arms of Mine

{Extracts from MOJO Music Magazine, DEC 07 - JAN 08}

2 comments:

AR said...

Ai que saudade do Otis Redding…
Mas não sei se já reparaste que não se consegue ouvir a primeira música.
Beijinhos.

Koluki said...

It's fixed now.
Bjs