When Booker T. and the M.G.’s backed Otis Redding at Monterey, what was your reaction from the stage when Otis walked out?
That was the first show we’d done after we returned from the Stax/Volt tour in England. I think the whole band, everybody involved in the band or around the show or the managers or whatever, really got a whole different perspective and education about our music and what we were about and maybe what we had been doing. We had no idea that we would make the impact on Europe and England like we did. Nobody knew that until we landed and went, “Golly, what is going on here?”
Mick Jagger’s in the crowd.
Yeah, it was phenomenal. So everybody came back to the States with a little bit different attitude than the one we left with. Whether it was good or bad I don’t know. So I don’t think we went to Monterey expecting anything extra, but we knew we were closing the show; basically we knew Otis Redding was the star of the show. So we kind of figured there’d be some sort of big reception. I didn’t know and I don’t think anybody else knew either that we were actually making history of [it] being the first big rock festival.
Do you think Otis knew there was a lot riding on that night?
If he did he didn’t talk about it. I know that his manager, Phil Walden, was extremely intense on making sure that everything went the way we wanted it to go, and so forth. I remember one slight confrontation that we heard about later is that one of the union electricians said, “Those boys better be through quick because we’re gonna turn the lights out at such-and-such [a time];” which meant shortening the show. Phil Walden told us later about it, and he said he told the guy point blank, “You ain’t touching that switch and we’re not shortening anything.” Whether he could’ve pulled it off or not, I don’t know. He was very intense about the fact that, “You’re not gonna change this. We came here to do this show and we’re gonna do this show.”
44 years on now since his death, more and more people consider Otis Redding an icon — arguably an abstract one in some respects — but you knew him as a man.
I lost a friend and a family member. Time doesn’t really change that. The emotions are still there. It took me at least from that time — that was ’67 — until about ’73 or ’74 before I could actually sit down and listen to any Otis music. It’s just very difficult. I had a manager friend one night who said, “You’re gonna sit down and we’re gonna listen to some Otis music.” And I went, “No we’re not.” And he said, “Yeah, we are.” It was just something I didn’t want to… The music is great. If I could separate the man from the music it would’ve been real easy, but I couldn’t do it without getting emotional about it. Now it’s like, yeah, I can get into Al Jackson and some of Duck’s licks and Booker, listen to what we did and remember the session, and sort of listen separately a little bit. If I just listen to Otis then it becomes another thing.