Rock & Roll Rewind: My Man Otis

Posted: March 8th, 2023 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a a Rock & Roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s one.

This is a fully corrected — hopefully — and somewhat expanded version of this recent remembrance.

Oft asked. Never answered.

Best concert I’ve ever been to?

Not going there.

That’s some dangerous quicksand masking a rabbit hole too long, deep and winding.

My favorite?

Too many. It would be easier to name the handful when I didn’t find something to enjoy.

Ah, but most memorable?

Easy Peasy.

In the mid 60s, most of the shows that came through town were package tours. A promotion company would pack a bunch of acts in a couple buses, and they’d do thirty or so one-nighters in a row.

There’d be an up and comer or two, maybe with minor hits. Some acts that were charting at the time. And an established star or two headlining.

That was the deal with APO Shows Inc.’s Sixth Annual Summer Shower of Stars. Which played Louisville Gardens on a hot summer’s night in ’66 which only got hotter.

Percy Sledge was on the bill. His “When A Man Loves A Woman” was huge.

Patty LaBelle and her Blue Belles had fashioned a couple of minor hits. Including “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” in ’62. Even though the song was actually recorded by another group, The Starlets. But for some reason, the Newtown label credited the Blue Belles on the label. Kind of stuff Phil Specter did all the time.

Garnet Mimms, whose “Cry Baby” had been a big Top 40 smash a few years earlier. It was, of course, covered by Janis Joplin years later.

Second on the bill were Sam & Dave whose “Hold On I’m Comin’” was blowing up the charts at the time. Their live performances were becoming legendary. To the extent that, even though they weren’t headliners — yet — not many established stars were willing to come on stage after them.

One who obviously would. Otis Redding.

Mea culpa: When I went to the show with my pals Moop and Carolyn, I had heard of Otis Redding, but didn’t know any of his songs.

Before I get to the performances of the headliners, some context.

In those days, there were lots of ushers at concerts. They kept aisles clear. You had to stay in your seats. And some would even enforce their rule that you had to stay seated. Festival seating was still years away.

It didn’t matter how hot the acts were.

But on this magical night like no other, for whatever reason, it was hands off. The audience could roam and dance.

It was hot. It was sweaty. It was wild.

It was bacchanalian.

Sam & Dave may have not liked each other very much. But, oh my, their set was so incendiary, the place turned orgiastic. OK, not actually sex in the aisles, but primal.

During “Hold On I’m Comin” the young ladies sitting behind us went ballistic, expressing with their screams just how much they were willing to be involved with the singing duo’s intentions. If you get my drift.

So, catching a breath after that workout was over, as the stage was being set up for the top of the bill, I turned to my pals, and said, “I don’t know anything about this Redding guy, but he’s going to have to go some to top that.”

But, my friends I gotta tell ya.

When the Otis Redding Show Orchestra — essentially Memphis’s The Bar-Kays, maybe with Duck Dunn and Steve Cropper — played the first notes of Redding’s cover of “Satisfaction,” the place rocketed intergalactic.

It was rock and soul Saturnalia. “Respect.” “Try A Little Tenderness.” Etc, etc.

I’m blessed to have been to hundreds, thousands of great shows through the decades.

None. Was. Quite. Like. This. The memory is indelible more than a half century on.

My Man Otis.

— c d kaplan

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