Bar-Kays Survivor Recalls Crash That Killed Otis Redding

(Memphis) This week marks the 45 anniversary of the plane crash that killed Otis Redding and members of the Memphis band, The Bar-Kays. 

A surviving member of the band is speaking out about the tragic events that left him numb after seeing his best friends killed in that crash.

James Alexander is one of the original members of the Bar-Kays, “To travel with Otis Redding, to just be involved with him was just an amazing thing.”

Right after high school graduation Alexander and his fellow band mates started touring with Redding. 

They played over a hundred shows around the country together until tragedy struck December 10, 1967, just days after Redding recorded Sitting on the Dock of the Bay. 

The plane carrying Redding and Bar-Kays members Jimmy King, Ronnie Caldwell, Phalon Jones, and Carl Cunningham crashed into an icy lake near Madison, Wisconsin.

Alexander was supposed to be on that flight, but there wasn’t enough room, so he flew on a different plane and was supposed to meet them when they landed. 

They never showed, and Alexander got the call no one wants to hear, “Man, it’s a very numb, empty feeling. It’s a very empty feeling just to wake up and guys earlier in that day you were laughing and talking with, and all of a sudden those guys aren’t around.”

Alexander was rushed to the scene and had to identify the bodies of his best friends. 

One of his band mates, Ben Cauley, was able to escape the wreckage and was the only person to survive, but he was in shock. 

“Otis as well as all of us we were all so happy-go-lucky so it was just a devastating period during that time,” said Alexander. 

Alexander hopes those lost after such short lives will be remembered for the rich musical legacy they left behind.



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