Once in awhile, with family friends or fellow patrons at the pub, I get asked,
“What got you into music?”
My first deep dive into music started after I quit basketball in High School. It accompanied my deep dive into faith. The band I started with was the one who kept being played every thirty minutes on Oldies and classic rock stations: The Beatles.
But the first song that got me interested in music in the first place? No, it wasn’t a Beatles song.
That song that got me interested in music was about a day of rest along a dock in Sausalito, California. 2,300 miles away at the time. Now, it’s like back over there a few miles.
I was maybe 7, possibly younger when I first remember hearing Otis Redding. It was a Friday night with Grmm at Gag’s house. Gag’s dad would come home from the Franklin House after a long day of work and a longer night of recovery, kick on the old Philco Hi-Fi stereo where Oldies 104.3FM WJMK Chicago was patiently waiting for him, crack open a Strohs, plop in the La-Z-Boy, and drift away to Dick Biondi’s oldies. We’d be able to hear it from down the hall in Gag’s room because their manufactured home’s construction wasn’t big on interior insulation and the parquet floor echoed the sound down the hall hauntingly well.
Biondi would spin out a lot of classic 50’s and 60’s doo-wop and bubble gum throughout the evening. The sugary saturation was probably what made Soul and Motown sound that much more incredible because those songs could only find a couple minutes here and there to sneak out and tell it to us straight. The change of pace and a twinge of aggression felt in those songs felt like, finally, someone wasn’t bullshitting us.
Within those pockets of goodness, there would be this change-of-pace song I’d hope to hear. It would start with a slow, soothing acoustic strum and the subtle washing of waves. Then this reassuring, raspy croon of a voice would kick in. His first note let you know that he wasn’t being instructed to make everyone feel unreasonable happy and in love for the sake of being happy and in love. He was going to be someone who told it like it was. It sounded like the first adult who was going to be upfront with me. It made it that much easier to roll my head and yearn along with the bass-line.
Eventually, over the months, through the many, many listens-to from down the hall while we were supposed to be sleeping, I learned the lyrics as best I could.
Yeah, it was (Sittin’ on) The Dock of The Bay.
We didn’t have a public, consumable internet back then. It was a decade and a million miles away. I didn’t have my first computer until I was 21. Grmm & Gag eventually went off and into skater punk for awhile. My cousins got into Hip Hop and my athletic friends were more concerned with Michael Jordan & Bobby Knight. My family never had much money to go music shopping so I spent years keeping my ears open for Otis Redding, listening for him on oldies stations in those brief pockets I had, much like those pockets I listened for him on those Friday nights.
The more I found, the more intrigued I became.
It feels weird now to have the entire Otis Redding Discography embedded on a page on my website, complete with streaming audio and video. That sort of thing never seemed possible growing up. But, yet here it is.
Otis Redding will always be significant to me.
To use his words, he was the “pretty little flame” that lit my candle, and has made my journey “sure hard to handle, now, gets around.”