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Where was Otis sitting?

By Larry Clinton, President, Sausalito Historical Society

An August, 2010 MarinScope column presented two versions of the origin of Otis Redding writing his signature song, “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” on a Sausalito houseboat.  Local author Derek Van Loan set the momentous occasion at Commodore Heliport, but  longtime Chronicle music critic Joel Selvin recalls that Redding was staying on Main Dock at the time. We invited comment from anyone who could shed further light on this controversy.

Last month we heard from Joe Tate, longtime waterfront dweller and former leader of the Redlegs, the legendary rock n’ roll band that formed in the houseboat colony during the late sixties. Joe says, “I was there and I saw Otis on the Main Dock.  I was staying on the Main Dock and one day we saw Otis walk to the end of the dock and sit down.  He stayed there for at least an hour.  When he left, Mike Bloomfield, who was also staying on the dock, saw him too. I asked Mike ‘Is that Otis Redding?’ He was very sure of it.”

Bloomfield, a blues legend himself, reached national prominence with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Tate still performs regularly at various Sausalito venues.

It appears that Redding wrote only the beginnings of the song in Sausalito. According to liner notes for a  DVD of vintage Redding television performances, Dreams to Remember: The Otis Redding Story, Redding “had come off his famed performance at the Monterey Pop Festival just months earlier in June 1967. While touring … he continued to scribble lines of the song on napkins and hotel paper. In November of that year he joined producer and guitarist Steve Cropper at the Stax recording studio in Memphis, Tennessee.”

Cropper, a frequent collaborator of Redding’s, told NPR’s Fresh Air that he helped Redding  complete the music and melancholy lyrics. “Dock of the Bay” was recorded on November 22, 1967 with additional overdubs added the following month.

Redding continued to tour after the recording sessions, but on December 10, his charter plane crashed into a lake outside Madison, Wisconsin. Redding and six others were killed.

Within days, Cropper was back in the studio performing the final mix of the song, which would become Otis Redding’s greatest hit – and his lasting legacy to the world.



Otis Redding, inspired by Sausalito


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