At an early age, Otis Reading, Jr. began his career as a singer and musician in the choir of the Vineville Baptist Church. Otis attended Ballard Hudson High School and participated in the school band. He began to compete in the Douglass Theatre talent shows for the five-dollar prize. After winning 15 times straight, he was no longer allowed to compete.
Otis drove Johnny Jenkins to Memphis, Tenn., for a recording session in August 1962 at Stax Records. At the end of the session, Stax co-owner Jim Stewart allowed Otis to cut a couple of songs with the remaining studio time. 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' and 'Respect.'
He was nominated in three categories by the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences (NARAS) for recordings he made during 1967. 1968 was destined to be the greatest year of his career with appearances slated at such locations at New York’s Philharmonic Hall and Washington’s Constitution Hall. Redding was booked for several major television network appearances including The Ed Sullivan Show and The Smothers Brothers Show. He was posthumously inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989. In 1999, he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award.
In 1970, Warner Brothers released an album of live recordings from the June, 1967 Monterey International Pop Festival, featuring Otis Redding on one side, and Jimi Hendrix on the other. This record is evidence that the hip white audiences, better known as the 'love crowd', were digging Otis Redding just as much as the black audiences for whom he had always played. His energy and excitement, his showmanship, and his relationship with the crowd made Redding a master as a performer who had the rare gift of being able to reach audiences the world over.
During a week he had spent on a houseboat in Sausalito when performing at San Francisco’s Basin Street West in August 1967, Redding wrote '(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,' it was unlike anything he created before. Just sitting’ on the dock, looking out at the bay, it’s easy to see where Otis got the inspiration for the song.
It had a lilt, memorable hook, and a great story. While it was typical of Redding’s previous recordings, it signaled his creative expansion as a writer and artist. That song became Otis Redding’s biggest worldwide hit and signature. This was Otis’ final recording before the plane crash that took his life in December 1967.
His music and legacy live on.