Thursday, December 13, 2007


On Monday, December 10th, we opened our special new Otis Redding exhibit at the Stax Museum, "OTIS REDDING: FROM MACON TO MEMPHIS - An Exhibit from the Private Collection of Zelma Redding."

A long time in the making, the exhibit now has more than 100 photographs and artifacts very generously loaned to us by Otis' widow, Zelma Redding. The exhibit is in the recreation of the famed Stax Records Studio A and it's the first time that area of the museum has housed a changing exhibit. Although it is a recreation (the original Stax building was demolished in 1989), when you are standing it the room surrounded by all of the fascinating photos of Otis and the other artifacts, you are standing on the exact same ground where Otis recorded almost all of his music. It is, indeed, hallowed ground.

This exhibit means a great deal to me. I'm not one for celebrity worship, but there is something about Otis Redding that is so special and so beautiful, it's hard to explain. Of course, I never met Otis Redding and know about him only through his family and the musicians and other Stax employees who knew him, but - like many artistic geniuses who die young - there is a mystique about him that is fascinating. Here was this very young man from Georgia, who wanted so badly to be a singer, but had to work as a well digger and hospital orderly (he got fired from that job for singing too much on the job!) who never wavered from his dream. Think about it. He was 19 or 20 when he first came to Stax Records, and by age 26 he had accomplished so much and appeared to have absolutely loved the journey he was on. His recordings were incredible, but video footage of his live performances are like none of any other live performer I have ever seen. He was magnificent, confident, vulnerable, and honest all at the same time.

One of the best things about this new exhibit to me is that it shows Otis Redding off stage as well, mainly at his Big O Ranch outside Macon, Georgia, a place he loved. You see him riding his horses, petting his cattle, sitting on the diving board of his pool, walking with his kids, and stretched out on the ground leaning against a Revolutionary War-era gravestone just relaxing with a cigarette. In some of the photos he looks elated. In some he looks very pensive. All in all, it shows that he was human like the rest of us and somehow that is comforting.

If you have any Otis Redding memories you would like to share, or just comments on the King of Soul, please post them here. And come see the exhihit. I think you'll feel like Otis is in the building.