"Cool," I said, "Who for?"
"Erm, right. I thought he was dead?"
"Yeah, but he had a son called Otis too and he wants a band put together."
When the reply came back I nearly lost it. This man's dad is pretty much the godfather of soul and after hearing we'd be playing all the classics like My Girl and Dock of the Bay it was pretty much the best thing ever.
The band I was going to be part of was made up of 8 guys and girls I've had the pleasure of knowing and working with around the South West for some time and I hadn't seen a few of them for a while so it was pretty exciting. Drummer Gary Kroll is a great guy and I've played with him on a few sessions, bassist Celso Rocha a Brazillian firecracker and at the time was part of Freshly Squeezed. Alik the MD on guitar and Jacob Kodicek are also Freshly veterans and of course Simon Dobson the other Badcore Horn I spend most of my time playing next to. Backing vocals were a real treat to have and provided by Alex Hart, a local country/pop songwriter and blue singer Becca Langsford. Rehearsals sounded great and as Simon and myself had a few sessions on that weekend and a lot of material to get down we were running iPad music stands which worked fantastically.
Fast forward to the day of the show and we were at Cube Studios in Truro at lunchtime to run everything with Otis. We'd made some adjustments to the arrangements and were hoping he liked them. After setting up we were feeling pretty good and relaxed, then someone said "Otis is here," and suddenly the game faces came on.
|Rehearsing at Cube Studios|
Aviators, leather jacket, gold boots and left handed Strat, the dude looked every bit as soul as you'd expect. First thing he did was see if everyone knew Green Onions and had us jam it to size us up. Seemingly pleased with that we moved on to the main event and after a good number of hours adjusting and transposing he was happy and we packed up and headed to the venue.
We chatted for a while and the guy is the nicest dude ever. Totally humble about his beginnings and properly switched on about soul and music in general. The mood in the Watering Hole was crazy when the evening got underway. You could tell the crowd were dead excited and that definitely rubbed off on us. Otis meanwhile was in his dressing room sleeping off the flight like a pro.
Showtime, and as we played the opening track the man himself strides onto the stage wearing a sequined shirt with security on either side. For the whole set he commanded the stage, throwing solos around and weaving in bits of family history and at some points I saw people at the front in tears, it was an amazing experience. The end came all to soon and he was pretty
much mobbed for autographs and photos until he left.
Afterwards he told us how impressed he was that a bunch of young guys from little old England could groove out so hard and how he'd love to take us across the Pond to play with him in the US. Turns out he'd had trouble getting session players together who worked and he liked the way we worked. There's a big festival due in 2015 and he wants us there. Needless to say I've got my passport ready for the call!
|The band with Otis afterwards|
The day after was a drive to Cardiff to play with London collaboration, High Cross Society as a last minute dep gig. It was great, but a long night that included sleeping in the car at an unremembered service station at something like 5am. Ooof.