The University of Georgia will present a tribute to Otis Redding, the Georgia-born singer and songwriter best known for his hit "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," on Tuesday, Feb. 17, at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, where the WUGA studios are located.
It was in those studios in the early 1960s that Redding — then touring with Johnny Jenkins and The Pinetoppers — made one of his earliest recordings with the Pinetoppers, a song titled "Shout Bamalama." The Georgia Music Hall of Fame will present a plaque to WUGA during the ceremony to commemorate the historic recording.
"'Shout Bamalama' displays the raw talent that Otis Redding developed in such a short period of time to become a musical icon," said Bruce Burch, director of the UGA Music Business Program. "We want to celebrate the small, but essential, role that Athens and UGA played in Redding's legendary career."
The two-hour tribute, which is open to the public, will start at 2 p.m. in Mahler Auditorium and feature performances by Randall Bramblett, T. Graham Brown, John Berry, Bryan Howard, and Jimmy Hall, formerly of Wet Willie. Members of the Redding family will participate in a question-and-answer session, with WUGA-FM program director Robb Holmes, UGA student Jordan Stepp and Burch posing the questions.
Athens-Clarke County Mayor Heidi Davison will present a proclamation to Redding's family declaring Feb. 17 "Otis Redding Day" in Athens, and other presentations commemorating Redding's career will be made by the Atlanta chapter of the Recording Academy and music publisher BMI.
A talented musician and songwriter who was born in Dawson, Ga., and raised in Macon, Redding dropped out of high school to pursue music and joined Little Richard's band, The Upsetters. In the late 1950s, he met Johnny Jenkins, a local guitarist, who invited him to join his group, the Pinetoppers, managed by Phil Walden.
By 1963, "These Arms of Mine" had become Redding's first hit, establishing him as a recording artist. But it was his impassioned performances on the so-called "chitlin' circuit" that made him, next to James Brown, the most popular soul singer of the mid-60s, according to The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll.
Following Redding's appearance at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967, he and songwriting partner Steve Cropper wrote "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay." It was recorded on Dec. 6, 1967, and would become Redding's biggest hit. Yet he never lived to see its release.
On Dec. 10, 1967, his chartered plane crashed into a Wisconsin lake, killing Redding and four members of his backup band, the Bar-Kays. He was 26 when he died. In early 1968, "The Dock of the Bay" hit No. 1 on both the pop and R&B charts. Fourteen years later, his two sons and a nephew formed their own group, called The Reddings, and covered "The Dock of the Bay." Otis Redding was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 by Little Richard.