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A jolt at the jukebox: The first time I heard this Otis Redding song

Soul singer, Otis Redding, was the booster rocket that finally launched me into the music I’ve loved all my life—soul music, blues, and rhythm & blues. I first heard Otis when I was a junior in high school. I heard him on a Sunday morning on a jukebox in a temporarily closed bar and gambling house owned by the father of a Black friend of mine. The joint was only open at night and my friend’s dad had given him a handful of marked quarters so he could turn me on to the music he loved—the Black music he grew up on but which was nonexistent on the white radio stations of Eastern Washington.

I remember being thrilled to hear for the first time songs like Little Willie John’s "I’m Shakin,'" and Hank Ballard & The Midnighters’ "Work With Me, Annie." But what really floored me was a song by this guy named Otis Redding. The song was "Pain In My Heart," and there was something about his voice that lifted me up from simply enjoying the song, to actually feeling it. And I liked feeling it. I wanted more. And I’m still always on the look-out. And it was Redding who planted the seed.

September 9th would have been Redding’s 82nd birthday had he not died in a plane crash in in 1967, at age 26. His career as a recording artist and performer only lasted 5 years but his contribution was massive and his music is as vital and as stirring now as it was when he was alive.

When I began this piece I wanted to write a brief overview of Redding’s life and music but in my research I came across a piece in The New Yorker from 2017. It’s by Jonathan Gould, who wrote a beautiful biography of Otis called Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life. Instead of cribbing from Gould’s article, I yield to it and include it here.

And below are two more not-to-be-missed Otis Redding songs:

"Too Hot To Handle"

"(Sittin' On) The Dock of The Bay"

Nick began working at KNKX as a program host in the late 1980’s and, with the exception of a relatively brief hiatus, has been with the station ever since. Along with his work as a Midday Jazz host, Nick worked for several years as KNKX’s Music Director. He is now the station’s Production Manager and also serves as a fill-in host on KNKX’s jazz and blues programs.