From the Department of Unexpected Questions, I found this while researching where Otis Redding wrote “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay:”
“Where is the Frisco Bay?”
Well, there are two popular references to “The Frisco Bay,” and a third I found off-hand:
- A San Francisco Bay nickname: A nickname San Franciscans would never use
- Frisco Bay, Colorado : A place Otis has never been – if my research is correct
- Willow Bay in Frisco, Texas: A bay you can never sail your boat upon
The San Francisco Bay’s “Frisco Bay”:
This might be the only time in history that San Francisco Bay is referred to as The ‘Frisco Bay because no self-respecting San Franciscan ever refers to the San Francisco Bay by any other name than its actual name or, simply, The Bay. Sometimes, when referencing the area around the bay, folks will say “San Francisco Bay Area” or “San Francisco East Bay Area,” but never anything else.
That said, it’s never “Frisco” or “San Fran” either when referencing the posh city. Sometimes, “SF,” and if you live here long enough, “Fog City.” Any other reference and the natives will figure out new ways to peak their upturned noses even higher at you for suggesting something so abhorrent.
That said, I love calling the San Francisco Bay ‘Frisco Bay as much as San Franciscans hate to hear it. I’ve gotten a good scolding for making the reference. It’s a riot. For as much as folks talk about, “hippies” and “peace & love” out here, San Franciscans need to lighten the Hell up. My task here is to make that happen.
Specifically, for “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay,” Cropper & Redding threw the Frisco Bay reference in the second verse to reinforce geography and probably give it a little ism.
I mean, seriously, who the Hell would sing:
“Headed for the San Francisco Bay. Yeah.”
Oh, wait. I got this one: San Franciscans.
It’s heavily presumed that Otis was watching the ships roll in and roll away again while sitting on Bill Graham’s houseboat. Sausalito is positioned at the opening of the San Francisco Bay. Redding would have been able to see The Frisco Bay’s countless freighters and ferry boats “roll in” and “roll away again” because of the vigorous activity from both the Port of Oakland and the Port of San Francisco. Those ports are nestled farther down the bay’s shores, somewhat out of reach from all of the Pacific Ocean’s weather.
Frisco Bay, Colorado:
This is the only properly-named Frisco Bay I could find during my light-survey search. Frisco Bay, Colorado is an actual bay in the southwest arm of Lake Dillon / Dillon Reservoir / Dillon Dam, located along -70 up in the Rockies about an hour and a half west of Denver. Like Lake Patoka back home, a damn was built to shore up Lake Dillon. In this case, it was to give Denver its own water reserve. In 1961, they had evacuated Dillon, Colorado and closed up the damn, flooding the city to create the lake.
There’s some skiing and – go figure – houseboats available to rent. You can even see the original town underwater. I kind of want to visit it now, between mid-May and September when it isn’t snowing.
Willow Bay. Frisco, TX:
Willow Bay in Frisco, Texas is technically a bay, but not the one you’re thinking. Willow Bay isn’t filled with water – usually. Having never been there, I’m left to assume it’s a stretch of lands partially surrounded by woods, fields, or prairies, but not enclosed enough to make it a valley.
Specifically you’ll find subdivisions and gated communities half-filled with houses I once would have thought were gaudy in price, but now I live in Bay Area and I just salivate at their square footage and lot sizes.
And, “no,” I’ve never come across any instances where Otis Redding hung out here, either.