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Summary Article: Otis Redding (1941–1967)
from African American Almanac
Singer, Songwriter

Born on September 9, 1941, in Dawson, Georgia, Otis Ray Redding Jr. moved with his parents at age three to the Tindall Heights housing project in Macon. In grade school Redding played drums and sang in a church gospel group, and a few years later he learned the vocals and piano style of his idol, Little Richard. Quitting school in the tenth grade, Redding went on the road with Little Richard's former band, the Upsetters. But Red-ding's first professional break came when he joined Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers. Red-ding's debut single was a Little Richard imitation tune, “Shout Bamalama” (1960). Accompanying Jenkins to a Stax studio session in Memphis, Redding was afforded some remaining recording time. Backed by Jenkins on guitar, Steve Cropper on piano, Lewis Steinberg on bass, and Al Jackson on drums, Redding cut “Hey Hey Baby” and the hit “These Arms of Mine” (1962).

Signed to the Stax label, Redding released the album Pain in My Heart (1963). Backed by members of Booker T. and the MGs, Redding's follow-up album Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul featured the hit “Respect” (1965). In the next year, Redding broke attendance records at shows in Harlem and Watts. After releasing a cover version of the Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction” (1966), Redding embarked on a European tour that included an appearance on the British television show Ready Steady Go!

In August 1966 Redding established his own record company, Jotis, which was distributed through the Stax label. Following a few commercially unsuccessful ventures, Redding recorded singer Arthur Conley, who provided the label with the million-selling single “Sweet Soul Music.” Redding's recordings “Try a Little Tenderness” and the vocal duet “Tramp,” featuring Carla Thomas, hit the charts in 1967. Redding, backed by the MGs, performed a stunning high-paced set at the Monterey Pop Festival on June 16, 1967. On December 10, Redding's career came to an tragic end when the twin-engine plane carrying him to a concert date in Wisconsin crashed in Lake Monona, just outside Madison. As if in tribute, Redding's song “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay,” released a few weeks after his death, became his first gold record.

Copyright © 2012 by Visible Ink Press®

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