Fourth of six children, Otis was born in Dawson, Georgia to a sharecropper, Otis, Sr., I, moving at age 2 to Macon, Georgia, the man considered one of the greatest American Popular Music makers and a seminal artist in soul music and rhythm and blues. The gospel influenced singer who sang at the Vineville Baptist Church Choir himself influenced many soul artists of the 1960’s.


Decorative wall mask depicting Otis Redding,
Owner of the “BIG-O Ranch”


1951 – Took drum and singing lessons.

1955 – Ballard-Hudson High School, sang in the school band

1956 – Quit school to support his family and worked with Little Richard’s backup band, the Upsetters. Performed in talent shows at the historic Douglass Theater in Macon. Otis, Sr. by then had contracted tuberculosis and was often hospitalized.

1958 – Joined Johnny Jenkin’s band, the Pinetoppers, driving the band, singing, and touring southern states.

1960 – With the band Pat T. Cake and the Mighty Panthers, he toured southern states.

1960 – Son Dexter was born with Zelma Atwood. In the mid-1960’s Otis moved to Los Angeles with his sister Deborah. Zelma and children remained in Macon, GA. The couple had four children: Dexter, Demetria, Karla and Otis, Jr, III.

1961 – Signed with Confederate. Recorded his second single, “Shout Bamalama” (a rewrite of “Gamma Lamma”) and “Fat Girl”, together with his band Otis and the Shooters.

1962 – A Stax recording session captured his first single, “These Arms of Mine”.

1962 – Volt releases “These Arms of Mine” and “Hey, Hey Baby” Single sold over 800,000 copies

1963 – Records “That’s What My Heart Needs” and “Mary’s Little Lamb”

1964 – Otis released through Stax his debut album, Pain in my Heart

1965 – Records his second studio album, The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads

1965 – In a 24-hour-period on July 9-10 in Memphis, he and the studio crew arranged ten of the eleven new songs for his next album entitled Otis Blue: Otis Redding Sings Soul.

1966 – Performed in Los Angeles at Whiskey-A-Go-Go on the Sunset Strip. Toured Europe, singing in major cities like Paris and London.

1966 – Stax studio attempted to discourage but recorded “Try a Little Tenderness” previously recorded by Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra.

1966 – Stax booked a concert in London. Redding is interview at “the Eamonn Andrews Show”. Booking agent Bill Graham proposed that Otis play at the Fillmore Auditorium in late 1966, (paying Otis Redding $7,976 in 2020 value!).

1967 – Monterey Pop Festival, closing act on Saturday night. Sang “Respect” and “Satisfaction,” ending with “Try A Little Tenderness.” This would be his last major concert.

1967 – Wrote with Steve Cropper, recorded “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay”. First posthumous album to reach #1 on the UK Albums Chart. Otis received numerous posthumous accolades.

1967 – By the time he moved from Memphis to Macon to continue writing “Sweet Soul Music” he developed polyps on his larynx. Unsuccessful treating with lemon and honey, he was hospitalized in September 1967 at Mount Sinai Hospital in NY.

1967 – “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” was written with Steve Cropper, recording the ending with an extemporaneous whistle.

1967 – Despite a warning from James Brown not to fly in his Beechcraft H18 airplane on December 9, Otis Redding, Jr. took his last flight. Cause of the crash is not known.

1967 – His service was held on December 18 to allow the 4,500 people to travel to an overflowing 3,000-seat hall. Jerry Wexler delivered the eulogy, saying: “Respect is something Otis achieved for himself in a way few people do. Otis sang “Respect When I Come Home.” And Otis has come home.” This is inscribed on a memorial plaque on the lakeside deck of the Madison convention center, Monona Terrace.

2002 – City of Macon honored Otis Redding, Jr. by unveiling a statue next to the Otis Redding Memorial Bridge crossing the Ocmulgee River.

2006 – The Rhythm and Blues Foundation named Redding it’s 2006 Pioneer Award.

2007 – Zelma Atwood Redding founded the Otis Redding Foundation which continues to offer in Macon programs offering music and arts education.

2013 – The Rhythm & Blues Music Hall of Fame inducted Otis Ray Redding, Jr. at Cleveland State University, Ohio.

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