Bar-Kays’ Ben Cauley remembered by friends as soul survivor

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. — For music fans, it was Ben Cauley's unmistakable brassy sound and his twirling trumpet flare that put the soul into the Bar-Kays' classic song "Soul Finger."

Larry Dodson is the lead singer of the Bar-Kays.

"He could play man!"  Dodson said. "I never heard anybody play notes as high as Ben played. Nobody."

In the 1960s, Booker T. Washington High School students Cauley and bass guitarist James Alexander formed the legendary Bar-Kays and later recorded at Stax Records in Memphis.

Alexander told WREG what Cauley meant to him.

"My thoughts about Ben Cauley, a consummate professional, a brother a friend. Hey, rest in peace brother, " he said.

Cauley and his friends were also the backup band for Stax singer Otis Redding, but as it would turn out, Cauley would be the sole survivor of the group. In 1967, a plane carrying Redding and many of the Bar-Kays crashed in Wisconsin.

Cauley was the only survivor of the crash. Alexander was not on the flight.

"I love that brother," Alexander said. "He's a real, real trooper. He's been through a whole lot, surviving the plane crash and all of that and still, up until his last days, resilient."

Despite the tragedy, Cauley and Alexander regrouped with a new Bar-Kays band in the 1970s with Dodson as the lead singer.  Cauley also overcame a major stroke to perform until recently with the soul group the Bo-Keys.

"Ben Cauley was all about that from Beale Street and performing at the Stax Music Academy and one of his last performances with the Bar-Kays at Memphis Music Hall of Fame induction ceremony two years ago," John Doyle, the director of the Memphis Rock 'N Soul Museum, said.

"He'll be truly missed like so many Memphis musicians. That legendary trumpet is going to be heard forever. We'll never forget Ben Cauley."

But above everything else, Cauley was a family man with a deep religious faith.

"Whatever he had going on with the Bar-Kays was one thing, but he was adamant about his love for the Lord and his family," Dodson said.

Cauley, a musician, family man and a soul man whose life went from tragedy to triumph.

"Ben Cauley, a sole survivor, and I do mean soul survivor," Dodson said.

Mr. Cauley is survived by his daughters, Shuronda Cauley-Oliver, Chekita Cauley-Campbell, Miriam Cauley-Crisp, Monica Cauley-Johnson, Kimberly Garrett and sons Phalon Richmond and Ben Wells.

The Ben Cauley's homegoing celebration will be Sunday Sept 27 at M.J. Edwards 4445 Stage Road from 12-6 p.m. The funeral is Monday Sept 28 at Brown Missionary Baptist Church at 11 a.m. at 7200 Swinnea Road, Southaven, MS 38671. The funeral will be open to the public.

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