Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Sittin' In The Morning Sun

On January 8, 1968 Stax Records released (Sittin' on) The Dock Of The Bay by Otis Redding.  It became his first #1 single, holding the top spot on the charts for four weeks.  Otis never knew it.  He had died on December 10, 1967 when the small private plane he was traveling in crashed into a lake in Madison, Wisconsin just after he had finished a concert.  Forty-five years later it remains a song that everyone knows.  In 1999 it was named as the 6th most performed song of the 20th century by the music publisher BMI.

In a recent Wall St Journal article, several of those involved with the production of the song spoke about Otis and the making of the recording.  One of these was Steve Cropper, who co-wrote Dock Of The Bay with Otis.

Cropper recounted that when Otis came into Memphis in November 1967 he called and said "Crop, I've got a hit, I'm coming right over" and they sat together and finished the song.  Otis told him that he started writing the song when he was in San Francisco and producer Bill Graham let him stay on his houseboat in Sausalito.

The core of musicians on the recording were the members of Booker T. & the MGs, with Booker T Jones on keyboards, Duck Dunn on bass, Al Jackson on drums and Cropper on guitar.  For you comedy fans, Cropper and Dunn were also part of The Blues Brothers Band in the late 70s.  Having an integrated band, as Stax did, in the mid-60s Deep South was highly unusual but it resulted in some of the most memorable singles of that era.  Along with Redding, the band also backed Wilson Pickett, Sam & Dave and Eddie Floyd among others.

Cropper went on to say that when Otis showed up with the song he sang the verse that went:

Sittin' in the mornin' sun
I'll be sittin' when the evening come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch them roll away again

Cropper objected, "Otis, hold on.  If a ship rolls, it will take on water and sink" and Otis replied "That's what I want, Crop".

He then goes on to tell this story:

Years later, I was in Sausalito on tour and found myself at a place by the bay having a hamburger.  I was watching the water when my eye caught something.  The ferries crossing from San Francisco turned a little as they came in, creating a rolling wave to cushion their arrival at the pier.  That's when it hit me.  Otis had been watching the ferries rolling in. 
By Otis Redding standards Dock Of The Bay was laid back and mellow.  He'd made his reputation as a bluesy, soulful singer (he was also a talented songwriter, including composing Respect, Aretha Franklin's monster hit) as well as being a dynamic and riveting live performer.  His performance at the Monterrey Pop Festival in July 1967 had been his breakthrough to a broader white audience.

This is Otis performing Try A Little Tenderness in London.  It picks up mid-song but it captures his electric style.  You can also see Dunn and Cropper backing him up.

1 comment:

  1. Being stationed at Presidio of San Francisco at that time I took particular notice of that tragic plane crash back home in Wisconsin. DM