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Rock & Roll Rewind: My Man Otis

Singer Otis Redding is pictured looking to his left.
Volt Records

c d kaplan is a Rock & Roll lifer. He’s got stories, lots of stories. Here’s one.

Oft asked. Never answered.

Best concert I’ve ever been to?

Not going there.

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

My favorite?

Too many. It would be easier to name the handful that 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 promoter would pack a bunch of acts in a couple buses, and they’d do thirty 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 which only got hotter.

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

Patti LaBelle and her Blue Belles had fashioned a couple of minor hits. Including “I Sold My Heart to the Junkman” in ’62. Even though it was actually recorded by another group, The Starlets, but the Newtown label credited the Blue Belles on the label.

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 not 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 performance the headliners, some context.

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

Regardless of how hot the acts were.

But on this magical night like no other I’d been to, 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.

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

But, my friends let me to tell ya.

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

It was rock and soul Saturnalia.

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

None. Was. Quite. Like. This.

My Man Otis.

Observer of the Passing Scene: Pop Culture and Sports. Writer. Film Critic. Curmudgeon. Rock & Roll and Louisville Cardinal fan.

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