Chancellor of Soul's Chronicles-Journals Dedicated To The
Historical Preservation Of R&B, Pop and It's Artists and Music


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'Sunday Dec. 10, 1967 3:28 PM / Otis Redding: 'A Tragedy In Soul Music History'

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Otis Redding was one of the most dominant entertainers in the history of music. His legacy still continues to shine brightly in hearts of many R&B fans, worldwide. 1967 was Otis' last triumph to fame and fortune until his untimely death on Dec 10.

Let's recount some of the events that happened during the year of 1967:

January 7, Otis' recording of " Try A Little Tenderness" hits No 6 on Billboard's Top Selling R&B Singles charts. On the R&B LP charts his " Otis Redding Dictionary Of Soul" is No 5. The LP was released in October of 1966.

Otis and Carla Thomas began to record a duet album entitled, " King And Queen" during the month of January. Carla was home in Memphis for the Christmas holidays from Howard University where she was studying for her M.A. in English. 'Tramp' was the first song cut on the LP. It was brainstorm idea of Jim Stewart to pair the two together. Carla was at first apprehensive but after her talk with Otis, he convinced her the idea was a good one.

In February, Otis records two Christmas classics, Charles Brown's 'Merry Christmas
Baby' and Bing Crosby's 'White Christmas'.

Otis began to write and produced a young singer he discovered in Baltimore in 1965 named Arthur Conley. He borrows a Sam Cooke tune 'Yeah Man' from his album 'Shake' and rewrites the lyrics and title to ' Sweet Soul Music', released in February. Arthur's first release was 'I'm A Lonely Stranger' on Otis' label Jotis. Sweet Soul Music was recorded on January 20, 1967. The background singers were group called The Epsilons that included future singer / songwriters McFadden & Whitehead of
'Ain't No Stoppin'Us Now' fame.

The 'King And Queen' duet LP is released in March.

In March, the Stax-Volt Revue arrives in Europe for 4-week engagement tour. The revue arrives in London on Monday morning (March 13). The Beatles sent their private limos to pick up the entourage. The powerhouse line-up were Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Booker T. & The MG's, Eddie Floyd,
Arthur Conley, The Mar-Keys, The Memphis Horns, and Otis Redding.

The tour opened up on Friday evening at Finsbury Park Astoria (March 17).  After a series of one nighters in various continents in Stockholm, Oslo, and Copenhagen, the revue return to England on Sunday April 9th, for an encore performance. It is a huge success and meanwhile, England's popular trade paper 'Melody Makers' dubbed Otis Redding 'the number one top male singer' dethroning Elvis Presley who held the title for more than ten years!

Aretha Franklin's 'I Never Loved A Man (The Way That I Love You)' LP is released in early spring of 1967. The album includes one of Aretha's favorite Otis tunes 'Respect'. The song was featured in Otis' classic 1965 album 'Otis Blue / Otis Redding Sings Soul'. It was recorded on February 14.

Sweet Soul Music hits No. 2 on both Billboards' Top R&B Singles charts on April 29 and the Hot 100 on May 13 and sell a million copies!

Deejays around the country began to airplay Aretha Franklin's 'Respect' from her LP forcing Atlantic Records in releasing it as a single. It was an instant million seller hitting No 1 on both the R&B and Pop charts, making Aretha an international star. Ebony writer Phyl Garland quoted, 'Black people
adopted the song as their new national anthem'. Otis would later claim, 'that girl done stole that song away from me'. He laughs all the way to the bank.

Otis & Carla's 'King & Queen' LP climbed to No. 5 on the Top Selling R&B LP chart, on May 5.

Otis takes a live conference call from Dick Clark during a taping of American Bandstand to discuss his career and his new release of a live Sam Cooke recording 'Shake'.

In New York, on June 5 Otis along with Carla Thomas, The Bar-Kays, Jean Wells, Clarence Carter and Toussaint McCall, appear at Harlem's World Famous Apollo Theater.

Otis settles a lawsuit from J.W. Alexander (Sam Cooke's songwriting partner) who owns Kags Music (J.W. and Sam's publishing) for Otis' 'Sweet Soul Music' a tune he lifted from Sam's earlier composition ' Yeah Man'. Knowing there's future money in the bank, J.W. will exchange for assurance that Otis will continue to record other songs from the Kags catalog.

Otis and Booker T. & The MG's appear at the now legendary Monterey Pop concert in Monterey, California, including rock stars such as the Who, Simon and Garfunkel, Eric Burdon & The Animals, The Byrds, Jefferson Airplane, Big Brother and The Holding Company with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix. Smokey Robinson & The Miracles along with the Impressions, also scheduled to appear bowed out at the last minute. Otis and the MG's took the stage at 1:00 am after the Jefferson Airplane during the rain and brought down the house; 55,000 were at attendance.

During his stay in California on a houseboat in Sausalito, while listening to the Beatles' 'Sgt Pepper Lonely Hearts Club Band LP', Otis is inspired to compose the tune 'Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay'. After his return, he begins to promote Stax's 'Stay In School' which appears in the front of the company's marquee.

In July, the Stax label would release four live LP's. 'The Stax/ Volt Revue Volume One: Live In London', 'The Stax/Volt Revue Volume Two Live In Paris, 'Otis Redding Live In Europe', and 'The Mar-Keys and Booker T. and The MG's: Back To Back.

Two Otis singles are released, ' Glory Of Love' (No. 19 R&B Singles on Aug. 26) and ' Knock On Wood' from the King And Queen' LP (No. 8 R&B Singles Sept. 23).

Otis has an operation to remove polyps from his throat. The operation took place in Mt. Sinai Hospital in NY. His forced off the road during the fall season and constructs his swimming pool on his Big-O ranch. He takes this time to host a lawn party and spend more time with his family.

After recovery, Otis fires his regular road band and recruits the Bar-Kays who during the summer of 67' had the hit 'Soul Finger' under their belt and was hungry for more exposure. Otis' road band can be heard on the live recording LP, ' Otis Redding In Person At The Whiskey A Go Go', released in late 1968.

On the afternoon of November 22, Otis recorded '(Sittin On) The Dock Of The Bay'.
He would continue to record other material through Dec. 6 & 7.

Singer Mickey Murray releases 'Shout Bamalama', Otis' classic 1962 recording on Shelby Singleton's SSS International label in late summer of 67' and hit No. 11 R&B on November 19.


The afternoon of Dec 8, Otis and the Bar-Kays fly to Nashville on his new twin engine Beechcraft for a three-weekend concert. The following Saturday, they flew to Cleveland  to appear on Don Webster's 'Upbeat' TV show. The show included Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, where Otis and Mitch would duet on 'Knock On Wood'. Later  that evening, Otis and the Bar-Kays would play at a popular nightclub called, Leo's Casino. This was to be Otis' last performance.


Sunday morning, Dec. 10 Otis phones his wife Zelma at 8:30 am. In a later interview Zelma said during their conversation that Otis was depressed about something and asked to speak to his son Otis III. He told her that he would call her when he arrived in Madison, Wisconsin.

At 3:28 pm in the afternoon, Otis' plane crashes into the icy waters of Lake Monona, just outside of Madison. Otis along with his pilot Richard Fraser and 4 members of the Bar-Kays with exception of Ben Cauley who was aboard the plane and was the only survivor, were killed. Ben reportedly was asleep with his arms wrapped around the cushion of his seat. When the aircraft plunged into the icy waters, he was thrown out of an open fuselage with his arms still wrapped around his seat cushion. He floated though the cold waters while hearing each member of his band call for help. Little by little, the cries began to stop as they each drowned.

News of the crash spread like wildfire across the country and around the world. Here in NY, legendary disc jockey Hal Atkins of the popular soul AM station, WWRL (Super 16), made the sad announcements of Otis' death the next day Monday morning. This was considered to be the worst air tragedies in entertainment history, since the Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and the Big Bopper air crash, 8 years earlier, in 1959.

Tributes to Otis' pour in on radio stations all over the world. In Vietnam, deejay airman, Thomas Atkins, devotes his entire Christmas show to Otis.

Ben Cauley tells the tragic chilling story of the crash from his hospital bedside at Methodist Hospital in Madison to Jet Magazine in the Dec., 1967 issue. Raised by religious parents, Ben quotes in the Jet article that, ' I guess God was with me'. Chester Higgins conducted the interview.

People are shocked and outraged that Jet Magazine would publish pictures of Otis' body strapped in his chair while being fished out of the icy waters of Lake Monona.

Otis's funeral was held at the Macon City Auditorium. His body lay in state at 6:30 am, where 25,000 people viewed his body and 6,500 attended the services. The list attendance included a who's who in soul music and politicians alike. Entertainers and condolences pour in from all over the world. The Beatles were slated to leave and attend the funeral but didn't. Vice-president Hubert H. Humphrey who wrote the liner notes in Otis' 'Stay In School' LP, would send his condolences.

James Brown, Joe Tex, Joe Simon, Johnny Taylor, Arthur Conley, including Otis' childhood friends, Earl Simms, Clark Weldon and Sylvester Huckaby who was Otis' bodyguard), were the pallbearers. Joe Simon would sing a spiritual rendition of ' Jesus Keep Me Near The Cross' and Johnny Taylor would perform 'I'll Be Standing By'. Jerry Wexler, vice-president of Atlantic Records, gives a heart warming eulogy during the services.

Otis' body is laid to rest in the backyard of his Big-O ranch, a hundred yards away from his house, in Macon, Ga. There the family will have a private funeral. It was reported that singer James Brown was to attend but when he arrived, was chased away by the ranch's gateman.

Otis Redding Sr. becomes the administrator of his son's estate. As included in Otis' will, his estate at the time was reported to be over a million dollars.

Otis Redding's death would leave a deep hole in soul music forever. Let's not forget the man from Macon, GA who left us his legacy of great music to  remember him by.

Continue to sleep on peacefully, Otis and thank you for the great musical memories.

                                                      Enjoy!!!
                                                  Mike Boone
                                             (Chancellor of Soul)

                                                 August 2004



    Material should not be used or altered without expressed permission of the
    author, Mike Boone,  (Chancellor of Soul)

 

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