Inside Otis Redding’s breakout performance at Monterey Pop: ‘All of those hippies got quiet’

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Otis Redding made his signature debut before a predominantly white audience at the Monterey Pop Festival, and those who were on stage with him said the moment still resonates decades later.

“Otis was just explosive,” says Wayne Jackson of the Memphis Horns said in the documentary Dreams to Remember. “He just rolled over them, like the tide. And when we were through, the Smothers Brothers had introduced us, and they were on the side of the stage, just jumping up and down. They were beside themselves.”

Redding, who was backed by Jackson as part of the Memphis Horns and by Booker T. and the MGs, had earlier performed club dates at the Whisky a Go Go, but had principally played before mainly African American audiences until Monterey Pop in the summer of 1967. After a volcanic set that included both “Respect” and “Satisfaction,” Otis Redding’s crossover seemed to be complete.

Redding got on a roll, and just kept going — right past an agreed upon curfew. The MGs’ Steve Cropper confirmed that a legendary label head made sure the show would continue: “Phil Walden said: ‘You’re not shutting those guys off. Not while I’m standing here.'”

As many as 90,000 people were on hand for the Monterey Pop Festival, which took place over three days. Also on the bill were Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Ravi Shankar, the Who and others. None, however, made quite the impression that Otis Redding did.

“When Booker T. and the MGs hit that stage, it just got quiet,” Jackson remembered. “All of those hippies got quiet — because they hadn’t seen anything like us. The heat in the audience came up, you could feel the heat coming up, and the excitement level. And, boy, Otis Redding hit the stage and pandemonium broke out. They really hadn’t seen anything like the show we put on, and that Otis put on.”

Unfortunately, Monterey would be one of his last public performances. Otis Redding died in a plane crash just six months later at age 26 on December 10, 1967.

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