Mar 27, 2023 - News

Filmmakers revisit Otis Redding's final days in Cleveland

Otis Redding sings into a microphone.

The King of Soul. Photo: Elaine Mayes/Getty Images

On Dec. 10, 1967, a plane carrying Otis Redding and members of his backup band the Bar-Kays died in a plane crash. Less than 24 hours earlier, the legendary musicians had taken Cleveland by storm.

Driving the news: Two filmmakers with local ties are looking to capture the final year in the life of Redding and the Bar-Kays with the documentary "Soul Sound '67."

Zoom in: The film is directed by Northeast Ohio native Wes Orshoski and friend Adam Rubenstein, whose cousin was Ronnie Caldwell, the Bar-Kays keyboardist who died in the crash.

What they're saying: "So much of this is trying to get people to understand who the Bar-Kays were," Rubenstein tells Axios. "In losing Ronnie and trying to tell this story, I've gained a family in people who knew him."

Flashback: In 1967, Redding and the Bar-Kays played two nights — Dec. 8 and 9 — at Cleveland's iconic Leo's Casino and appeared on "Upbeat," a locally produced and syndicated musical variety show.

  • The following afternoon, Redding and most of the band boarded a private plane that crashed on its way to Wisconsin, killing everyone except trumpeter Ben Cauley.

The intrigue: This month, Rubenstein and Orshoski traveled to Cleveland to interview people who had witnessed Redding and the Bar-Kays' final performances.

  • "Even though I grew up here, I had no idea how cool Cleveland was in the 1960s," Orshoski says. "I'm now educated on the role Cleveland played as a stop for the Motown acts and how many legendary musicians appeared on a show like 'Upbeat.'"

What's next: Rubenstein and Orshoski plan to continue gathering footage and interviews for "Soul Sound '67" with the hope of having a rough cut ready by year-end.


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