Otis! My Man!

Animal House (1978) Otis! My Man! - YouTube

We get to pick the music when we are the lead on a shift. Right now I’m in the restaurant as a customer for lunch. I took the day off in case my second vaccination shot plays havoc with my innards, but the ever charming waitress has chosen a station called vocal jazz. It’s pleasant.

With the exception of one waiter who played Gregorian chants and Soviet propaganda music just to see if any one noticed (they did) we set a pretty good mood with the music we play.

If you come in before we open on a day when I’m on, you’re likely to hear a semi-punk or hardcore band blasted at an obscene level. I’ve been on a Replacements kick lately and their album Pleased to Meet Me is just distilled happiness. But I cut that nonsense out when we open. When it’s time to entertain guests I ask Alexa to play the Otis Redding Station.

It always starts with “(Sitting On) The Dock of The Bay” (those parenthesis are a real part of the title by the way) and then what ever algorithm or devious and waiting artificial intelligence that is biding its time before taking the over the world skips you around the Motown and Atlantic Rhythm and Blues catalogue. Occasionally something from another genre pops up. The other day I was talking to a table and realized that “The Letter” by the Box Tops was playing. That’s a great tie in to Pleased to Meet Me but it’s connection to Otis Redding escapes me.

I got acquainted with Redding at age thirteen. I went to a summer camp in Tennessee for a month. We’d kinda wake up to reveille every morning but post reveille our counselors would blast music at a bone shaking volume. There was no sleeping in when that started.

They rotated the wake up songs but the ones that got the most play were UB40’s version of “Red, Red Wine” and “Blister In The Sun” by the Violent Femmes.

Both were – are – great songs, but what struck me was that I had never heard them before. I was an avid radio listener, loved music, but this was new. Where do you find stuff like this? So I asked the counselors.

They gave me the best advice. Go to a local record store and ask the clerk what they listen to. That’s what I did.

Older Birmingham residents will remember Odyssey Records on 6th Ave South. It was funky and smelled like oregano.

When asked the guy behind the desk handed me a record: Otis Redding’s Greatest Hits. I’ve never been the same.

He claimed to have been suspended from Shades Valley High School for lowering the flag to half mast on the day Redding died. Maybe bluster, but a great story either way.

Wherever that oregano smelling record store employee is today, I thank him. Otis Redding. What would the world be like without his music? Or Diana Ross? Or Al Green? Or… this will never end if I don’t stop now.

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