On the Dock of the Bay…

02 Aug



The Stax special on PBS was interesting but, like Huck, I felt they missed a golden opportunity to focus on the artists and music, rather than focus so much on the Civil Rights Movement. Not that it’s not important, it’s just that there is significant information and other documentaries that have covered these issues, in depth. This particular documentary had the opportunity to really educate people on the music of the day and it’s profound affect on the music of the next 40 years.

It did spark my curiosity about a few thoughts from the program and got my research fingers to working. Of course, the special prominently featured Otis Redding as he was the center of the Stax world in the late ’60s.


With his band, Johnny Jenkins and the Pinetoppers, Otis showed up at Stax in Memphis in 1962. From the Otis Redding website:

The session was not going well, so Jim Stewart, Stax co-owner, allowed Otis to cut a couple of songs with the studio time that had been booked. The result was “These Arms of Mine”, released in 1962. This was the first of many hit singles (including classics “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long”, “Respect”, and “Try A Little Tenderness”) that Redding enjoyed during his tragically short lifetime.

While the Bar-Kays were Otis’ back-up band on many songs and performances, Booker T. and the MGs — the stellar Stax session band comprising of Booker T. Jones (organ), Donald “Duck” Dunn (bass), Steve Cropper (guitar) and Al Jackson (drummer) — the only notable, integrated band of that day, provided back-up on Otis’ last and most recognizable song, Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.

The song was written by Otis and guitarist Steve Cropper and recorded a mere three days before Redding’s tragic death. Redding was inspired when actually staying on San Fransisco Bay (Sausilito) when he played The Fillmore in the Summer of 1967, resulting in the wonderfully soulful Dock of the Bay.

When he crashed his new plane into that Wisconsin lake in December of 1967 (along with 4 members of the Bar-Kays), Otis Redding left a wife of 5 years and four young children. He was 26.

He also left a bereft and forever changed Stax organization. Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay was released posthumously, and the song was #1 for 4 weeks in 1968. Interestingly, the last part of the song of Otis whistling was just a filler in the initial recording that was going to be replaced in final mixing by additional lyrics. Of course, Otis never made the final mixing, but little did he know that this whimsical whistling would provide such a wonderful and unique touch to a song that emblazon his memory on generations….and that it would be his swan song.

Here is Steve Cropper’s Tribute to Otis in Rolling Stone. Hard to believe it’s been 40 years….


Here is an interview of Otis Redding in March of 1967, a scant 9 months before his death. He’s prolific about Rock & Roll and “the blues” and perhaps his own demise…


12 responses to “On the Dock of the Bay…

  1. colette

    August 3, 2007 at 12:33 am

    Great find that interview, MM. Lovely to hear his voice, and his total commitment to the blues.

    He could make anything bluesy — here’s his “Satisfaction” in England, with a shout out to Mick Jagger “if he’s in the house”:

    Otis – Satisfaction

  2. huckleberryfriend

    August 3, 2007 at 7:09 pm

    Until a year or two ago, I thought Booker T and the MGs were an all black group. Since it was the early 1960’s, I guess that was what the culture told me. In most cases in the South, everything was segregated. Says a lot about the people at Stax that good music trumped everything else. Good for them.

    I like all of Otis’s songs, but Dock of the Bay is special. I was a Sophomore in college the year it came out and 2 friends and I had just rented an apartment. I remember playing the LP at our first party. We were cool!

  3. shrewspeaks

    August 4, 2007 at 8:57 am

    Otis’s music is such a perfect expression of what “soul” music is for me. Steve Cropper’s observation about the actual music not being there but Otis’s magic coming from emotion and expression is such an eloquent way of stating what “Soul” is.

    Many have asked what the musical landscape would have looked like if Otis hadn’t died when he did. The possibilities are limitless…

  4. morewines

    August 4, 2007 at 8:23 pm

    Here is a little more on Otis Redding.
    He lived in Marin, CA across the Golden Gate
    Bridge from San Francisco. He lived on a dock.
    Yes the very dock he sung about “Dock of The Bay”.
    One of the last songs he wrote before he died.
    Watch it here.
    click on Marin Music Tour on the video.

  5. colette

    August 5, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    I’m from San Francisco and I really doubt Otis did more than visit the Bay Area. But that’s neither here nor there. Booker T did move to the area years ago, and here’s a nice recent interview with him by longtime San Francisco Chronicle rock critic Joel Selvin:

  6. Colette

    August 5, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    here’s something else Morewines and y’all might enjoy — Booker’s own website, which has some nice videos of him up:

  7. music maven

    August 5, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Based on Otis’ official website that I referenced in the post and here:

    Otis stayed on a houseboat on SF Bay in Sausilito right before his SF performance and it inspired Dock of the Bay.

    Otis and his family lived on the 300 Acre “Big O” Ranch in Round Oak, Georgia.

  8. morewines

    August 6, 2007 at 2:56 am

    “Colette Says:
    August 5th, 2007 at 5:30 pm

    here’s something else Morewines and y’all might enjoy — Booker’s own website, which has some nice videos of him up:”

    Who could forget “Booker T. & The MGs”?

    Otis did live in Marin on the dock. Listen to lyrics of “Dock of The Bay” He rented a place near the dock in Marin. If you don’t belive this then call
    village music.(415) 388-7400 before September
    when they close. (independent record store)
    Joel selvin a local SF music columnist is a good
    one to contact as well.

  9. colette

    August 9, 2007 at 12:03 am

    Ok! Sorry, sistahs! I stand corrected! Can’t I believe I didn’t know he was there…I just thought with the wife and the four kids and all….

    And Village Music is closing? Lordy. That takes me back. Do you guys remember how important record stores were back when? They were social halls, swap meets and often run by people with encyclopedic musical knowledge. Maybe they’ll come back around again someday, if we’re lucky…….

  10. music maven

    August 9, 2007 at 7:00 am

    Colette- Perhaps “places” like this are the new Record Store?

  11. colette

    August 9, 2007 at 1:45 pm

    Not sure what you are referring to, MM……

  12. colette

    August 9, 2007 at 2:41 pm

    Wait a sec — do you mean your site? If you do, I think you’re right. It’s a blessing to connect & share with other music lovers via the Internet, and I’m very grateful for sites like yours.

    I also do miss the places where you can physically hang out with folks, talk music and browse the bins. The Stax docu, with memories of their popular record store, reminded me of that….


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