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Otis Redding

Redding was born in Dawson, Georgia to gospel singer Otis Redding, Sr., and housekeeper Fannie Redding. His father worked as a sharecropper, then at Robins Air Force Base and as a part-time preacher. When Redding was three the family moved to Tindall Heights, a predominantly African American public housing project in nearby Macon. For a short time they lived in a small house in Bellevue, a neighborhood in west Macon. That house burned down and the family moved back to Tindall. At an early age, he sang in the Vineville Baptist Church choir and learned guitar and piano. From age 10, he took drum and singing lessons. At Ballard-Hudson High School, he sang in the school band. Every Sunday he earned $6 by performing gospel songs for Macon radio station WIBB. His passion was singing, and he often cited Little Richard and Sam Cooke as main influences; Redding "would not be here" without Richard, as he "entered the music business because of Richard – he is my inspiration. I used to sing like Little Richard, his Rock 'n' Roll stuff... My present music has a lot of him in it."

At age 15, Redding left formal schooling in order to work and help financially support his family because his father had contracted tuberculosis and so was hospitalized, leaving his mother as the family's primary income earner. Otis later worked as a well digger, a filling (gas) station attendant and guest musician in the ensuing years. Pianist Gladdy Williams, a well-known Macon musician and another who inspired Redding, often performed at Hillview Springs Social Club, where Redding sometimes played piano with her music groups. When Williams hosted Sunday talent shows, Redding accompanied his friends from the neighborhood, like Little Willie Jones and bassist Eddie Ross.

Around the time when his tonsils were removed, Redding doubted he would ever be able to sing, but his father encouraged him. Redding's breakthrough came in 1958 on disc jockey Hamp Swain's "The Teenage Party," a talent contest at the local Roxy and Douglass Theatres. As Otis's backing band was not professional, pro guitarist and event attendee Johnny Jenkins offered musical accompaniment. Redding sang Little Richard's "Heebie Jeebies." The combination enabled Redding to win Swain's talent contest for fifteen consecutive weeks; the cash prize was $5. Jenkins later worked as lead guitarist and played with Redding during several later gigs. Redding was soon invited to replace Willie Jones as frontman of Pat T. Cake and the Mighty Panthers, featuring Johnny Jenkins. Otis was then hired by the Upsetters when Little Richard abandoned rock and roll in favor of gospel music. Redding was well paid at about $25 per gig, but did not stay for long.

At age 19, Redding met 15-year-old Zelma Atwood at "The Teenage Party." She gave birth to their son Dexter in the summer of 1960 and married Redding in August 1961. In mid-1960, Otis moved to Los Angeles with his sister, Deborah, where he wrote his first songs including "She's Allright," "Tuff Enuff," "Gamma Lamma," and the song "Gettin' Hip," Redding's first composition released as a 45 RPM single recording.

Redding died December 10, 1967, when a plane carrying him and the Bar-Kays crashed into Lake Monona, near Madison, Wisconsin. Only Ben Cauley (trumpet player for the Bar-Kays) survived the crash - Redding's body was found the day after the crash, still strapped into his plane seat.
He got his break when, as chauffeur and gofer for Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, he asked the producer and engineer if he could record a song when the Pinetoppers were finished. The result was his first R&B hit, "These Arms of Mine."
He recorded with Stax Records, a Soul label in Memphis that had a string of hits in the late '60s. The house band, known as Booker T. and The MGs, played the instruments on his songs. Other famous Stax artists include Isaac Hayes, Albert King and Wilson Picket.
He had a ranch called "The Big O Ranch," complete with a herd of cattle.
Redding was the first Soul artist with a large white audience.

50s, 60s Hits

Sittin On The Dock Of The Bay
Try A Little Tenderness


(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay
I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)
Papa's Got A Brand New Bag
Stand By Me
These Arms of Mine

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Bill Jackson






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