When Otis Redding’s plane crashed, killing the legend at only 26 years old, it left the world wanting more. Within days, there was “Dock of the Bay,” a song so successful that if you played all of its air time, it would wrap around the world at least five times.
But still, that wasn’t enough.
Back at the ranch -- the Big O Ranch -- a widowed young mother and her small children, a daughter and two sons, had to muster the determination to carry on. If Otis Redding was to live on through his legacy, it would be done the way he wanted: through family.
And so, the record flipped and the B-side began. Zelma Redding, his wife, would fiercely protect the business of the music. Karla, his daughter, would forge ahead into the philanthropic endeavors dear to her father. And his sons, Dexter and Otis III, would fulfill the world’s desires as musicians.
We’re fast-approaching 50 years since Otis Redding left us. But thanks to his family, the soul of the Big O is everywhere he’d want it to be.
Last week, the charter for the Otis Redding Academy of Music and the Arts was submitted. Those who knew Redding, know he was passionate about education, especially in his local community. On the heels of that notion, the Otis Redding Singer Songwriter Camp is about to welcome a new season of talented campers who learn the ins and outs of music from a combination of Georgia musicians -- most from Macon -- and the inspiration of Redding’s timeless tunes.
There is also a strong effort underway to get The Reddings -- the brother and cousin act combo of Dexter, Otis III and Mark Lockett whose 1980s hits “Remote Control” and “Call the Law” were hot on the soul singles charts -- inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.
Carrying the name of Otis Redding III is not always an easy honor. But when entertainment is embedded in your DNA, and your dad broke barriers to bring audiences together, talent is not to be taken for granted.
Last Friday, Otis III played with students from the McDuffie Center for Strings and local musicians such as Floco Torres as part of a fundraiser for The Otis Redding Foundation. Performing local like that is particularly special to him. He experiences the foundation in action -- how the hard work and investment from his sister and the rest of the staff is paying off for the young future of music.
That was just a warm-up. In just a matter of days, Otis III leaves for Europe, where he will perform as a solo artist at places like the Luxor in Arnhem, Holland and SoHo in England, where he’s played before. He’ll be back just in time to participate in the second week of the songwriters camp. After that, he’s off to Australia for more.
It’s on these overseas soils that his father remains king. It’s a torch that Otis III takes tenderly. He sings his father’s songs, but he doesn’t want to wear the crown. He’s there to honor the music with his guitar, his own sound and sometimes a few of his own songs. For him, it’s just as much a matter of preservation -- not just of a legacy but the sound of sweet soul music, too.
From that sense of preservation to education and inspiration, the Redding family isn’t just continuing a legacy. They are fulfilling one.
For a complete list of Otis Redding III’s tour dates, visit otisreddingiii.com. For more information on the Otis Redding Foundation and the upcoming Otis Redding Singer Songwriters Camp, visit otisreddingfoundation.org.
Jessica Walden is the director of communications for the College Hill Alliance and the co-owner of Rock Candy Tours, a Macon music history tour company. She can be reached at 478-361-6998.