Bentley' s Bandstand: Otis Redding, Live On The Sunset Strip

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BY BILL BENTLEY

Otis Redding, Live On The Sunset Strip, Stax Records

In early 1966, there was no more exciting singer than Otis Redding. He was at that exact apex where his unrelenting power intersected with a growing public profile. And although Redding was still only a heavyweight in the African-American world, you could feel his presence starting to lean into popular music across the board. It was also immediately obvious the big man was like a roaring river getting ready to knock down a dam; it was only a matter of time. On April 9th and 10th of that year, Redding and his 9-piece show orchestra invaded the small stage at the Whisky a Go Go on West Hollywood’s Sunset Strip, and then proceeded to lay waste to everything within shouting distance. On these two discs, it feels like an athlete in their prime steps into their moment in the sun to show how things really get done.

Redding isn’t a polished singer by any means, and that’s a good thing because the way he turns his emotions into explosives has to be heard to be believed. Hits like “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long (To Stop Now),” “These Arms of Mine,” “Respect” and “Mr. Pitiful,” are some of the best ever recorded, and these live versions are even more expansive. By ’66, he had started covering the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” and the Beatles’ “A Hard Day’s Night,” making them his own in a way that felt like the music was brand new. In fact, Otis Redding helped cross the bridge between rock & r&b in a straight march, showing how each style could be uplifted by the other. No one had ever done it with more excitement. There have been other releases featuring recordings from these shows, but no collections as complete. The two sets from show three are enough to peel the top of the head off anyone, and allow everyone to experience a master’s magic. When I saw Otis Redding at the Pladium Ballroom in Houston two months before his 1966 Whisky appearance, he was so beyond being human I thought I was hallucinating. As a 15-year-old high school student, I had found my way to an African-American nightclub on a cold February night because the songs I’d heard on the radio reached out to me and grabbed me by the heart and the head. I was mesmerized. Hearing them again now, I know why. Otis Redding was, is and always will be the king of soul.

Bill Bentley is a writer, musician, publicist, record producer and A&R director. He once played drums with Lightnin’ Hopkins. 

About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.