THE CRUEL IRONY OF FATE
Soul Singer Otis Redding and his band never made it to this concert with the Grim Reapers. They were on their way when they came face to face with their own Grim Reaper.
The 26-year-old singer and five teenage members of his band The Bar-Kays were killed when their twin-engine aircraft plunged into icy Lake Monona in Wisconsin. The pilot also died.
DECEMBER 10, 1967
Otis Redding, lower right, with members of the Bar-Kays. The band members included, clockwise from bottom left, Phalon Jones, Ben Cauley, Carl Cunningham, Ronnie Caldwell, Jimmy King and James Alexander.
Nineteen-year-old Jones, Cunningham, 18, Caldwell, 19, King, 18, and 17-year-old valet Matthew Kelly (not pictured) were killed in the plane crash. The pilot, Richard Fraser, 26, also died. Ben Cauley was the only survivor.
ONE BAND MEMBER’S LUCKY DAY
On the fateful day, they boarded the plane for Madison, Wisconsin. Bar-Kays bassist James Alexander took a different flight because the Beechcraft was full.
Ben Cauley, who was sitting directly behind Otis Redding, fell asleep on the flight clutching his seat cushion. He woke up when he heard bandmate Phalon Jones look out of a window and say “Oh, no!”
At 3:28 in the afternoon the plane crashed into the icy waters of the Squaw Bay area of Lake Monona, on the outskirts of Madison.
BEN TRIED TO SAVE HIS BUDDIES
The impact of the crash tore a wing off the small plane and ripped apart the fuselage. Ben, still clutching his seat cushion, bobbed to the surface of the water. He tried to swim to the aid of his bandmates who were still strapped to their seats in the fuselage. He heard their desperate cries for help as they were pulled under the frigid water.
A Lake Monona resident heard the crash and called the authorities who arrived in a police boat. Ben Cauley was pulled to safety suffering from hypothermia and shock.
He went on to have a so-so career as a trumpet player and singer but his later life was marred by a stroke in 1989 and nightmares about the accident until his death in 2015 at the age of 67.
OTIS’ HUGE BILLBOARD HIT
Otis was one of the star performers at the 1967 Monterey Pop Festival, with Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.
Just before his death he made a series of innovative recording including Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay a huge crossover hit that sold more than two million copies and became the first posthumous Billboard No.1 single.
PEOPLE ALL OVER THE WORLD LOVE OTIS’ SONG