Otis Redding did not come from nowhere to find fame – but when the future soul legend first hit the charts, in 1962, nobody knew his name. Within a year he was firmly established as a star in the making. He would live up to his promise – and then some – to become an all-time great. It started here, with his debut album. Released on 1 January 1964, Pain In My Heart included Otis’ breakthrough single, These Arms Of Mine, plus three more attention-grabbing singles, two of which are now regarded as soul classics. It was a serious album from a dazzlingly talented singer who was, to all intents and purposes, a complete unknown.
The driving force behind Stax Records
These Arms Of Mine was not Otis Redding’s first single. He’d released three records across 1960-1961, none of which made any impact. He’d also been in several R&B groups in Georgia, eventually sticking with Johnny Jenkins And The Pinetoppers. Jenkins, a guitarist, helped Otis win numerous talent contests and employed him as singer and driver as he toured the club circuit of the South. Though Otis was a great and fiery vocalist, his musical direction was not set at this point. He tended to deliver material in the raucous style of Little Richard, and his early singles could have been taken as tributes to the Tutti Frutti rocker. But when Atlantic Records took an interest in Jenkins, Otis caught a break that made him an all-time great.
Atlantic sent Jenkins to Stax studio in Memphis, Tennessee, and Otis was the designated driver. Jenkins’ session finished earlier than expected, so Otis took the mic to show what he could do. He sang two songs, the raucous Hey Hey Baby and, in complete contrast, the ballad These Arms Of Mine. Stax Records’ boss, Jim Stewart, was impressed and, at the age of 21, Otis signed to the label that would make him a star. His success would help drive the company towards becoming the destination of choice for lovers of true soul music. Stax put out These Arms Of Mine as a single on its Volt label and it made No.20 in the US R&B chart and No.85 pop.