Otis Redding monument unveiled in Gray

GRAY — The unmistakable rhythm and blues of the late Otis Redding will be heard here for years to come.

An interactive memorial marker that plays Redding’s music and honors the Middle Georgia singer was unveiled Friday night.

Friends and family of Redding were surrounded by more than 1,000 people in downtown Gray as they uncovered the 7-foot square sign designed to look like an album cover.

“My father loved Jones County just as we do,” said Redding’s daughter, Karla Redding-Andrews. “We work in Macon, but when we leave Macon, we are so ready. We’re ready to get back to what we call ‘God’s country.’ ’’

Redding-Andrews said her father would be “so honored and proud” to have the historic marker on Ga. 11, which “he traveled so many times.”

“It’s like nothing else in the whole world of a tribute that’s been done for him,” she said.

Redding’s widow, Zelma Redding, also attended and thanked the community for its support.

Thad Childs, market president at Morris Bank and organizer of the Otis Redding Memorial Committee, said the marker will be something Jones County and the city of Gray can be proud of for a long time.

“Instead of just being a marker with a name and where somebody was born and so forth, we wanted to tell a story of who Otis Redding was and who his family is,” Childs said.

Charlie Mercer, 78, a lifelong Jones County resident and longtime fan of Redding’s music, said the monument is “a good thing to do.”

“I’ve been knowing Otis Redding most all my life. ... I’d seen him several times, but he mostly stayed on the road going somewhere most of the time,” Mercer said. “I like a lot of his music.” He said his favorite Redding song is “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay.”

Redding recorded that song Dec. 6, 1967, just four days before his chartered plane crashed into a Wisconsin lake, killing Redding and four members of his backup band.

To contact writer Laura Corley, call 744-4334 or follow her on Twitter @Lauraecor.