Otis Redding drove Johnny Jenkins and the
Pinetoppers to an audition at Stax Records in October 1962. Jenkins began the audition,
but with 40 minutes left, Redding took the microphone. Manager Phil Walden
claimed this was the intention all along and that he told
Redding, "If you get a shot, you got to do it just as fast as you can
'cause you probably won't have much time." Guitarist Steve Cropper
claimed Redding told drummer Al Jackson, "You know, I drive for Johnny,
and I set up the stage and all that, but during the shows, I always go up and do some
numbers," and it was Jackson who called on Redding to sing.|
Either way, Redding recorded two songs.
His first was a Little Richard imitation, "Hey Hey Baby," but the second, "These Arms
of Mine," was a song he had written two years earlier. The single was released in 1962,
and it caught on gradually locally and then nationally. More importantly, it established
Redding as a solo artist and paired him with Cropper, his long-time collaborator.
Redding's first album, "Pain in My Heart,"
was released in 1964. Despite its lack of commercial success, it did help to establish his
style as an artist, and according to Arnold Shaw, showed the influence of Little Richard's shout
style and also incorporating Sam Cooke's tenderness. Author Ed Ward said, "Redding
tempered his imposing physical and vocal force with an aura of sweet, wounded
vulnerability. The combination of power and pain was irresistible."
Redding also began to establish himself as a powerful
performer. Singer Ben E. King said, "Otis whipped up on a song. Had a voice could
mug you on the first note," and that Redding had "too much soul for Dick Clark.
Man could hit a song a hundred times, but he'd sing it a hundred different ways
depending on how he felt." He displayed what "New York Times" writer Robert
Shelton called "a torrent of motion, gesture and total involvement," and,
according to trumpet player Wayne Jackson, needed "two cans of Right Guard to keep
In between performances Redding recorded his second album,
"The Great Otis Redding Sings Soul Ballads." Redding embodied the persona of the
tortured lover and was even nicknamed "Mr. Pitiful" after a song on the album,
a name he later dropped in favor of "The Big O." No matter what he was called,
he was undeniably a rising star.