Monday, May 29, 2006

Otis Redding: Live At The Apollo November 1963

It's holidays again, so I can do an extra post this week!

You should all have everything ever committed to vinyl by the Big O. That is all. Sadly, my girlfriend informs me that I can't afford the Definitive Collection. Unless I am very, very good...

So, it is quite hard to do a posting about Otis Redding, which contributes anything new. However, I found recently a tape of a BBC radio show from some years back about the life of Otis, and amongst the interviews and tracks was a recording of Otis Redding at the Apollo Theater, on 16th November 1963, singing Pain In My Heart. On the stage that night werethe headliner Ben E King, The Coasters, The Falcons (including of course Wilson Pickett and Eddie Floyd), James Brown's protegé Doris Troy and Rufus Thomas. Otis was understandably nervous.
The recordings that evening were released as The Apollo On A Saturday Night on Atco. This had been a common event from 1944 up until 1962, overseen by engineers from nearby Apollo Records, but shows had been released ad hoc and never viewed as commercial until James Brown's Live At The Apollo. The November 16th 1963 recording was overseen by a crew from Atlantic Records, and considered a showcase of new talents from city and southern branches of soul music. It includes The Falcons singing I Found A Love and Alabama Bound, Doris Troy singing Misty and Say Yeah, Rufus Thomas with Rockin' Chair and Walking The Dog. The Coasters sing Ain't Nothin' To Me and Speedo's Back in Town, and Ben E. King does Groovin', Stand By Me, and its reverse Don't Play That Song.

Ben E. King, putative headliner that night, had nothing but r.e.s.p.e.c.t. for 'the big, bearlike man, sweating and trembling worrying about his suit, his voice, the band...' He recalled:

"Otis told me he was up from home and he was terrified... Otis said to me, 'You think they're gonna go for what I do, what we do down home?' But as long as I knew him, Otis never did get over that little bit of stage fright. He looked over at Rufus that night..."

There is an interview with Rufus Thomas about the evening, in which he reveals that Otis was so nervous and unsure of his stage presence, that Rufus, due to come on after Otis, and Apollo MC King Coleman trained him up in the moves, and showed Otis how to catch the eye of one girl, just one girl, and sing to her, so that her enthusiasm spread through the crowd. Coleman introduced him with the line, "He can sing baby, he can sing!..."

It certainly seemed to work. Backed by King Curtis' band, Otis raises the roof...

Some of the live Apollo tracks can be found on Otis! The Definitive Otis Redding (Rhino Records)

Rufus Thomas interviewed about Otis' debut at the Apollo
Otis Redding - Pain In My Heart (Apollo Theater Nov 1963)

I've got myself so intrigued I have sought out a copy of this LP!... I'll post something when it arrives...

Ben E. King quotes taken from Nowhere To Run by Gerri Hershey. Other facts from liner notes and from A Tribute to Otis by BBC Radio.

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