A bit like my 'meeting' with Dick Gregory (see earlier post), I had but a fleeting acquaintance with Otis Redding, but the occasion stayed with me for over four decades. It was when he appeared at the London Finsbury Park Astoria on the 22nd March 1967, headlining the Stax/Volt Review concert. This concert has often been described as one of the 'best gigs ever' (Q magazine amongst others) and I wouldn't disagree with that...it was an awesomely high-energy performance by the best soul artistes in the world!
My Otis 'moment' actually took place after the concert, when some of the artists were invited down to the Bag o' Nails club in Soho, which was one of the clubs run by the Gunnell Brothers (Rik and John) for whom I worked at the time. I had just arrived at the club, when Otis appeared in the foyer... took off his overcoat and handed it to our cloakroom girl, turned to me and asked what was the usual amount to tip. I replied that it was up to the customer, but a 10 shilling note (nominally 50p, but roughly the equivalent of £4 in today's values) was certainly enough to put a smile on her face! He grinned and pulling out a handful of notes, thrust £5 into her hand (worth around £40 today). The astonished girl tried to tell him it was way too much, but he just smiled and went on into the club. I left the club soon after and never saw him again...but I never forgot the experience. He was the personification of friendliness, courtesy and kindness, totally unaffected by his fame and popularity. A genuine 'star', in every sense of the word! Of course, no-one could know at that time that his amazing career would be cut short just nine months later, when he, along with his manager and four of the Bar-Kays, died when their light aircraft crashed into a lake near Madison, Wisconsin on the 10th December 1967. He was just 26.