Sunday, November 18, 2007
December 10, 1967
Otis Redding, the King of Soul, and four members of his band, The Bar-Kays, died when their plane crashed into the icy waters of Lake Monona in Madison. Four days prior to the crash, the 26 year old singer had cut "Sitting on the Dock of the Bay", a major change of direction and soon to be number one hit. Redding was scheduled to play that night at a club in Madison called The Factory. Backup band member Ben Cauley was the sole survivor of the crash. He remembers sleeping on the plane and waking up seconds before the crash. A fellow band member shouted, "Oh, no." Redding, sitting directly in front of Cauley in the co-pilots seat, was still and silent. The top of the plane peeled off in the impact. Cauley unbuckled his seatbelt and floated to the surface as did some of the other band members. He alone would survive the wait in the frigid waters. Madison emergency crews responded quickly. Cauley, clutching on to a seat cushion, was plucked out of the water 20 minutes after the accident was first reported by a home owner who had heard the sound of the impact. The crash site was dragged the next day and Otis Reddings body was recovered. He was found still strapped into his seat. For years, urban legend had it that the body was never found. I for one actually believed this until a wager and a trip to the microfilm archives at the Madison Public Library brought me to my senses.
Among the pall bearers at Otis Reddings funeral was blue eyed soul star Wayne Cochran.
Ben Cauley would go on to a successful career with the reconstituted Bar-Kays. The night of the crash, Rick Nielsen, lead guitarist of the opening act The Grim Reapers, made the announcement to the stunned crowd that Otis Redding was dead. Nielsen would go on to fame as the founder and lead guitarist of Cheap Trick. A plaque stands not far from the crash site just off Squaw Bay along Lake Monona's eastern shore.