Otis Redding was one of the most powerful and influential artists to emerge from the Southern Soul music community in the '60s. A bold, physically imposing performer whose rough but expressive voice was equally capable of communicating joy, confidence, or heartache, Redding brought a passion and gravity to his vocals that was matched by few of his peers. He was also a gifted songwriter with a keen understanding of the creative possibilities of the recording process. Redding was born in 1941, and he hit the road in 1958 to sing with an R&B combo, Johnny Jenkins & the Pinetoppers. In 1962, Redding traveled to Memphis, Tennessee with Jenkins when the latter scheduled a recording session for Stax Records. When Jenkins wrapped up early, Redding cut a song of his own, "These Arms of Mine," in 40 minutes; Stax released it as a single in May 1963, and the song became a major R&B hit and a modest success on the Pop charts. Over the next four years, Redding would cut a handful of soul classics: "Mr. Pitiful," "That's How Strong My Love Is," "I've Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now)," "Respect," "Tramp" (a duet with Carla Thomas), and "Shake." In 1967, Redding seemed poised for a major breakthrough with a legendary set at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival that solidified his status with hip rock & roll fans. Sadly, Redding would not live to see his greatest triumph: his most ambitious single, "(Sittin' on The) Dock of the Bay," was released little over a month after his death in a place crash, becoming his first number one Pop hit and his signature tune. Redding would become a bigger star in death than in life, and his recordings would be regularly re-released and repackaged in the years to come, as his legend and his influence lived on into the 21st century.
Otis Ray Redding, Jr. was born on September 9, 1941 in Dawson, Georgia. His father was a sharecropper and part-time preacher who also worked at Robins Air Force Base near Macon. When Otis was three, his family moved to Macon, settling into the Tindall Heights housing project. He got his first experience as a musician singing in the choir at Macon's Vineville Baptist Church, and as a pre-teen, he learned to play guitar, piano, and drums. By the time Redding was in high school, he was a member of the school band, and was regularly performing as part of a Sunday Morning gospel broadcast on Macon's WIBB-AM. When he was 17, Redding signed up to compete in a weekly teen talent show at Macon's Douglass Theater; he ended up winning the $5.00 grand prize 15 times in a row before he was barred from competition. Around the same time, Redding dropped out of school and joined the Upsetters, the band that had backed up Little Richard before the flamboyant piano man quit rock & roll to sing the gospel. Hoping to advance his career, Redding moved to Los Angeles in 1960, where he honed his songwriting chops and hooked up with a band called the Shooters. "She's Alright," credited to the Shooters featuring Otis, was Redding's first single release, but he soon returned to Macon, where he teamed up with guitarist Johnny Jenkins and his group the Pinetoppers; Redding sang lead with the group and also served as Jenkins' chauffeur, since the guitarist lacked a license to drive.
In early 1962, Otis Redding & the Pinetoppers issued a small label single, "Fat Gal" b/w "Shout Bamalama," and a few months later, Jenkins was invited to record some material for Stax Records, the up-and-coming R&B label based in Memphis, Tennessee. Redding drove Jenkins to the studio and tagged along for the session; Jenkins wasn't having a good day and ended up calling it quits early. With 40 minutes left on the session clock, Redding suggested they give one of his songs a try, and with Jenkins on guitar, Otis and the studio band quickly completed a take of "These Arms of Mine." Stax wasted no time signing Redding to their Volt Records subsidiary.