‘The rest is history’: Unfilled studio time led to discovery of a young Otis Redding

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A trick of fate launched Otis Redding’s career. He was, in 1962, working with a flamboyant guitarist named Johnny Jenkins, who had some unused studio time at Stax Records. Up to the mic stepped Redding.

“The rest is history,” Stax producer and A&R man Steve Cropper tells Lea Sweet. “We had 17 hit singles in a row. That’s pretty big.”

Jenkins, whose on-stage tricks might have served as an early inspiration for Jimi Hendrix, passed in 2006. He remains perhaps most famous leading a group called the Pinetoppers that featured a young Redding. Those extra 40 minutes of session work would yield Redding’s hit “These Arms of Mine,” which sold some 800,000 copies.

This was the start, needless to say, of something big.

“He wasn’t the Otis Redding that we know today,” Cropper admits. “At that time, he was just the singer in Johnny Jenkins’ band. We auditioned him, and they asked me to hear him sing — and he started singing ‘These Arms of Mine.’ Man, that was it.”

Jenkins reportedly played guitar on the session, by the way, with the legendary gunslinger Cropper actually sitting in on piano.

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