Otis, Alan Walden,
Percy Sledge, Jimmy Johnson.
© Alan Walden
Months went by and the record sold mildly in Macon and a few other nearby
cities. After nine months, Hamp Swain, a/k/a The King, a/k/a King Bee, a/k/a
Deacon Swain began to play “These Arms of mine”. Sales buzzed locally and
soon enlisted was the disk jockey from WLAC in Nashville, Tennessee. John
Richbourg was known as John R. They both played Otis’ record until sales were
beginning to show up all across the country and the record company wanted
more recording sessions set up right away.
Every record that Otis recorded after that was a chart maker in BILLBOARD,
CASHBOX, and RECORD WORLD magazines. Otis’ career had been launched and was
in the stage of becoming a real money-maker.
Phil had graduated from Mercer University and was commissioned a second
Lieutenant in the Army. I was a student at Mercer University when Phil’s
orders came in. He was to serve two years overseas in Germany and I was
chosen to try and keep the company going during Phil’s absence.
Working in the office was a big change for all of us. Otis and I began to
really get to know and feel each other out. We came from two different
backgrounds. It was our goal to just keep the doors open until Phil’s return.
During these years Otis and I became very close friends. We had broken the
racial barrier and had buckled down to work. We made our work fun! It was so
challenging to have an operation run by a young white guy and a young black
man in this Southern environment. Some Southerners did not understand but
this only fueled our determination to make it work. Long office hours (we
literally lived in the office at the Robert E. Lee building), sometimes
sleeping on sofas just so we could be there to answer the phone early the
next morning. Record sales grew bigger with each new record and we were
showing a profit for the first time.
Wayne Cochran and
We only let Otis play Macon once a year for his annual homecoming show.
This event became so big I enlisted my father, C.B. Walden, my mother,
Carolyn Walden, and my two cousins, Robert and Roy Walden, and my brother and
his wife, Clark and Dolores Walden, to help make the shows run successful.
Otis had his own team to help as well with Rogers Redding, Carolyn Spikes,
Earl Simms (Speedo), and Sylvester Huckabee(Huck).
Things began to prosper even greater each year and with the release of
each new record. Joe Galkin was with us all the way and an Italian agent from
a New York agency by the name of Frank Sands joined us in our own little
crusade from Macon, Georgia. Johnny Jenkins did not like to fly and there was
a split between the band and Otis. During this time Otis traveled solo and
rehearsed with local bands early in the afternoons, in each of the cities
where he performed. Deep down he always wanted that steady same backup band.
He met this great band from Newport News, Virginia that had a great horn
section, full rhythm section, and a male singer, Roy Hines, and a female
singer named Gloria Stevenson. Thus, the Otis Redding Show and Revue was
born. Their first transportation was a 1949 Flexie tour bus not in very
stable shape... but Otis made it keep rolling and the show expanded the
concerts even further across the country. Otis would play seven days a week,
moving from town to town almost every day.
In most cases success changed most singers, but not Otis. He was always
ready to do whatever was necessary and willing to match everything you did.
He had his own fan club and answered most of the fan mail personally, he
spoke with disc jockeys on a daily basis and even helped me set up office
policies. One time in the early days when the company’s funds ran low he
offered to put his own road show money into the company to keep it going.
Sometimes when he would be traveling and I would arrive at 6:00 am to open
the office I would discover Otis and Speedo already in the office reviewing
the receipts and ticket box funds from the night before. He would travel a
couple hundred miles extra just to work in the office before leaving for his
next concert. Otis and I only had two disagreements during the whole time we
worked together. I felt like we were a match made in heaven.
Not all of the days were glory. If you travel long enough you are going to
meet certain people who will try to take advantage of you and we certainly
had our share of fist fights, shoot outs, and other harassments; like having
to go to the back doors, filthy hotels, and bathrooms or no service at all.
During these incidents I feared no man, Otis was a street fighter and with
Huck along as his bodyguard they both could handle almost any situation.
Business continued to grow and before I realized it I had hired my father
to be Otis’ #1 road manager. Cadillacs and newer buses, better living
conditions, and more accurate accountings of all funds. All of us wanted Otis
to save as much as he could and still enjoy an entertainer’s decent life.
Otis and I wanted Phil’s homecoming to be great so we arranged for the
Otis Blue LP recording session. Otis and I already had “I’ve Been Loving You
Too Long” in the top ten in BILLBOARD magazine and “Respect” was recorded and
already in the can. Our gross figures were high and Otis and I had not done a
bad job on our own. Otis Blue was his best LP yet and it was Phil’s welcome
home present. Otis could take someone else’s song and rearrange it to where
it sounded like one of his songs with his very unique style.
With Phil back we launched immediately into expanding new territories. Sam
and Dave, Arthur Conley, Percy Sledge, Clarence Carter, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie
Floyd, Rufus and Carla Thomas, Joe Tex, Booker T. and The M.G.’s. Albert
King, Willie Mitchell Orchestra, Joe Simon, The Fiestas, Bobby Marchan, Hank
Ballard and The Midnighters, James and Bobby Purify, Oscar Toney, Eddie Kirk,
Wilbur Harrison, The Ovations, James Carr, Dave Baby Cortez, Alvin Cash and
The Crawlers, The Van Dykes, Albert Collins, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, Ty
Hunter, Otis Clay, The Precisions, The Kelly Brothers, Lee Dorsy, the Meters,
Ruby Andrews, Maurice Williams and The Zodiacs, Kris Kenner, Ernie K. Doe,
Roscoe Shelton, Big John Hamilton, Lattimore Brown, The Wallace Brothers,
Bobby Womack, Al Green, Tyrone Davis, Etta James, Mabel John, Jimmy Hughes,
Z.Z. Hill, Arthur Alexander, O.V. Wright, and Candi Staton soon signed with
our organization. At one time we represented forty-five black recording
We expanded into publishing songs and named our company Redwal Music. Next
to Motown we were the largest management company in the world. The first
sixteen gold records came very fast for us and continued to grow to over
fifty. We had conquered the Black market and Otis was voted the #1 soul
singer by CASHBOX and RECORD WORLD magazines. In BILLBOARD we were voted #2,
second only to the “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown. At this time we began to
take a good look at the pop (white) market. Tours of Europe and the Monterey
Pop Festival and the Filmore auditoriums brought the attention we were
looking for. Otis’ records were now all over both Pop and R&B stations and
charts. Otis was breaking big on TV as well.
All of the above happened during the 60’s before the Civil Rights Bill.
Otis and I decided to move out into the country where we could ride horses,
go fishing and hunting, and just do anything we wanted to without people
staring at this black man and white man doing things together, laughing and
having a good time. Otis and I both loved Round Oak and planned to make it
one of the largest ranches and farms in our state, We grew vegetables and hay
and raised cows and hogs. We even had fresh eggs from our chickens and
occasional glass of goat’s milk from a pet nanny goat. He built a 3 and a
half acre lake at the Big O Ranch for fresh fish and the largest privately
owned swimming pool in the state in the shape of a Big O. Plans were drawn
and construction was scheduled for an airstrip so he could land his twin
engine Beechcraft at the ranch.
Things were going great. All the success had generated wealth for all
three of us, a company airplane, El Dorados, Continentals, Thunderbirds, nice
homes and we truly seemed on top of the world. Business was booming. Each new
recording by Otis sold better than the ones before. National publications
were finally giving the proper recognition he deserved. Other entertainers
such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, Tom Jones, and Bob Dylan had
endorsed Otis as their favorite singer. Appearances had been scheduled on the
Ed Sullivan Show, American Bandstand, Johnny Carson, Joey Bishop, and Where
The Acton Is. He had two movie scripts to act, not to sing.
Otis was not only a singer but a musician, a writer, an arranger, a record
producer, a performer, and businessman in publishing and management of new
artists; working in all areas of the music business.
His accomplishments and contributions include:
1. One gold single “Dock of the Bay”
2. One gold LP “Monterey Pop Festival”
3. One gold box set “The Best of Otis Redding’
4. Two Grammies for “The Dock of the Bay’
5. Numerous BMI citations for songs he wrote which were recorded by
himself, Aretha Franklin, The Chambers Brothers, Michael Bolton, The Black
Crows, Micky Murray, Arthur Conley, O.C. Smith, Tom Jones, The Rolling
Stones, and even Frank Sinatra just to name a few.
6. He was inducted into the National Music Hall of Fame in Cleveland,
Ohio, the Georgia Music Hall of Fame and Memphis Hall of Fame in Memphis.
7. He set up a scholarship to help young students through school.
8. One gold single “Sweet Soul Music” recorded by Arthur Conley, produced
9. Resolutions were passed through the Georgia Senate and House of
Representatives unanimously praising his accomplishments.
10. Several scripts for a movie of his life story (which should be made in
11. His song “Dock of the Bay” placed 17 in the all-time history of music.
12. In Europe he dethroned Elvis Presley as the #1 male singer after
Elvis held the crown for seven consecutive years, in Melody Maker Magazine.
13. He worked very closely with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and Senator
Baker from Tennessee on a stay-in-school project.
14. He had a major bridge crossing the Ocmulgee River in Macon named The
Otis Redding Memorial Bridge.
15. One grammy in 1999 for the Lifetime achievement.
to add the statue is happening, another Grammy, another gold Cd award, and a
7 million airplay award from BMI(only 7 writers from America achieved this).
It also means if you playing the song continuously it would play for 40 1/4
To: Alan Walden
Sent: Tuesday, March 19, 2002
Harry Warner (BMI) Phil Walden, Zelma Redding, Otis
Redding Jr and Alan Walden.
Music Hall Of Fame"
Otis always took pride in not missing an engagement. In December of 1967
he was advised not to fly from Cleveland, Ohio to Madison, Wisconsin because
of bad weather. He didn’t want to disappoint his fans and took off anyway
leaving with the words, “Gotta make that dollar.” His plane crashed upon
approach to the airport and all were killed but Ben Cauley. The plane crashed
into a bay. Ben was the only one in the plane that could not swim and also
did not have his seat belt on. Had he stayed in the icy water a few minutes
longer he would have frozen to death.
Before Otis I had never loved a man outside of my immediate family and
relatives. He was the first. On that tragic night, December 10, 1967 I lost
not only my best friend and neighbor but a big piece of my heart as well. At
his funeral (only the third held at the Macon City Auditorium) I realized I
was not alone. Jackie Wilson, Solomon Burke, Joe Tex, James Brown, Sam and
Dave, Gene Chandler, Johnnie Taylor, Mabel John, Joe Simon, Clarence Carter,
Percy Sledge, Arthur Conley were just a few that filled the auditorium to
capacity with over 2000 people standing outside. Not one flower, not one
button missing. These people had RESPECT for the man who had been “Loving You
Thirty years later Otis’ last box set was certified gold. A movie will be
made in 1999 of his life story. His Big O Ranch grew 155 acres larger and two
of his wonderful children have built new homes at the ranch joining his wife,
Zelma and brother, Rogers. Each day I think of Otis and all the joy and
happiness we had . I hope our industry, our city and state will continue to
honor this man who never let it go to his head. Perhaps one day I might walk
by the first statue of a black man in Macon and you know who I think it