Otis Redding was 'the author of his own career'

ABC News' Amna Nawaz talks to biographer Jonathan Gould about his new book, "Otis Redding: An Unfinished Life."
8:16 | 06/20/17

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Transcript for Otis Redding was 'the author of his own career'
Hi everyone I'm on an in New York there's a new book out we're so excited to tell you about. Exploring the life and legacy of Otis Redding before untimely that fifty years ago. That book is out now it's called Otis Redding an unfinished life and the author Jonathan Gould joins us live here on thanks so much for being here when it. So tell you what he she want to write this book and talent is his story in the first. That very obvious reason is that nobody had written comprehensive biography there have been a couple of efforts to do. To do this before but various various circumstances intruded including. His widow Selma who is still very much alive. Zelman has been a fierce. Sort of guardian of Otis is legacy since his death. And she has not been willing to cooperate. With anybody in telling his story. Initially she was willing to cooperate with the either took me about three years to get to cooperate. But eventually she she came around. Or I came around as the case may be and what that it did was it opened the door to speaking with a lot of people who knew him. Knew him well and work with him and so on. Even Terry short from here. He didn't get a lot of you know there wasn't a lot said about exactly rightly glowing remarks and positive things help heart wasn't to dig up some of this story will. He lived before the age of rock journalism. Rolling Stone was with was magazine was founded in December really a month before he died about 1960s. And so was very hard it was not only court to find anything in print that he had said. But a lot of writing the book had to do with with finding a way to see all of these events from his perspective. The story had been told by other people who knew him by his by his manager Phil wall. But by a lot of people who who outlived him by a considerable margin. And so when that happens the story that's gets told of course is their version of this story and from the probably the hardest thing to do in in writing the book was to find my way. Where to a place where I could imagine how these events seem to owed us. And that was very interesting because the effect of that for me was to understand how much he really was the author of its own career. He had some very well known very gifted people who worked with them. People like Jerry Wexler and Atlantic records. People like a part in the end cheese which was his studio band. And there's a tendency when that happens for for everybody assumed that they were somehow cure rating him. It notices case that this was not what was going on Otis was. Very much in command. Of his career. What he wanted to do musically. And for me that was probably the the biggest sort of the broadest revelation in writing the book. You go all the way back to his early childhood if you talk to the people who know him that you have these fabulous picture us. In the book as well early early childhood photos tell me what it was like to discover those who learn about that part of his little. Three affecting because we know we know Otis says as he looked at says relatively mature manner he was only 26 when he died but. He did have this kind of missed its gravity to he looked like an older man to see a photograph of the PH of eight. This right to fees smiling kid with. Just beaming with a kind of that he Otis was even as a child was known for its charm. Not superficial way and he had a real ability to sort of take people overtake situations. You can see that in that photograph that you. And then to see the awkward adolescent sort of the beaming kids have turned it to. It's sort of deal wide sort of sort of thirteen year old who's staring into the camera doesn't. Clearly that's you have any sense of who he has some. So you know that it's it's it's very and it would would you when you write about somebody's life and the materials are relatively thin. Something like that photograph of company Euro you know use if you focus on these things very intently he try to. Find whatever meaning it's you know that is personality that we with is in that photograph and so that's. He sits through the materials that way and that's that's what I was like. Was also fortunate. One of the ways of cooperating with me with by giving me access to the archive of photographs. Is there some photographs in the book that to my knowledge it never really seen before including. A kind of what what I hope will become an iconic photograph. Notices best known song of course was sitting on the dock and and I was going through with photographs and it came across this photograph of voters standing on the dock. And look at this and I think it's the right age he quickly you know he was it was clearly in the last year's. And it is literally Otis standing on the dock of the houseboat where he wrote that song that Kraft which would I was and that's never been seen before I'd never seen before I mean I don't know that's been published before but it's it's it's it's in the book it's the last photograph in the book as well. But there's another photo in there that's actually not at him but we're he sort of got his start yes the teenage party quit yet not a lot of people know without tell me about that and how that sort of manifest itself in his life. One Lou one of these important influences on a notices career with the advent of black radio. Which didn't exist before the late 1940s and release order exploded in the 1950s. And his radio stations across the country lost their network connections with the advent of television and they needed to find sources of revenue. And one of the things that happen all across the south particularly woods that stations that had previously been you know ABC or NBC stations. Turn to your turn this enormous untapped black population there. On and started beating out rhythm and blues v.s. So these these stations that was full of which why don't with suddenly became very interest in catering to a black audience. And in Macon. Station there WI PB. Sorted something called the teen age party which was a talent show every Saturday morning. And was enormously popular every every every black teenager because it was segregated what whites could go there. Would line up down cherry street. You know and edited the show and compete and win lives he right. And Otis. At a certain point not at that the first teenage party but but after been going for a couple of weeks. Competed. One note at this point was a Little Richard with Little Richard came from the annals that was it was the other rates store who. Proceeded. Otis it yet coming from me at its patents art imitating him very much that was his that was his Forte. And basically Otis won the talent show every week war. Fourteen weeks and let's whatever the story is that way intelligently incidents with the community activist. But it was as by virtue of performing on the talent shows that he met guitar player named Johnny Jenkins very flamboyant. Who. At a had ankle Johnny Jenkins on operas and Otis. Really got his start professionally as the singer Johnny Jenkins that Jenkins was the star of the show he with the guitarist to. Hence certain superficial. Resemblance is Jimmy Hendrix played he played guitar left and turned around. He looked a little yet some of the same flamboyance. And so this was again just the singer sort of almost in the background some ways. You know Johnny Jenkins is the actress. And went. There is this wonderful exploration of the influence that he has as he said he he was the author of his own story yeah.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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