King Curtis’ Tribute to a Monarch of Blues

King Curtis’ Tribute to a Monarch of Blues

KING CURTIS had a great deal of respect for the late Otis Redding;

So much so that last Thursday,  King and his four man combo—the Kingpins—went into a New York recording studio and cut the first instrumental version of Redding’s posthumous smash hit, (Sit-in’ On) The Dock of the Bay. This was the last song recorded by Otis prior to his untimely death, and it has ironically, turned out to be the biggest record in his career. “We’re definitely not interested in whether we make money on our version,” King said at Toronto’s Coq D’Or Club last night.

“It is our sincere tribute to one of the great, if not the greatest, blues singers of our time.”


A tribute from King Curtis is no insignificant gesture. He is widely regarded as the pop world’s No. 1 tenor sax man.

He has played on each of the historic, sales-spiralling recording sessions of Aretha Franklin, and it was he who arranged, and blew sax, on Aretha’s classic version of Respect.

King is appearing at the Coq D’Or for two weeks, taking a strong claim as the foremost blues bandleader on the circuit today.

On uptempo numbers, he would make a touch-typist envious as he punches on the saxophone keys with amazing speed and dexterity.

He holds a blue note for so long that one begins to wonder if he has an auxiliary air tank hidden away on his bulky frame. He plays with unquestionable enthusiasm, dynamic drive, and sensitive persuasion.


He’s equally at home with ballad or beat. It might have been freezing outside, but inside there was a heat wave going on.

The act’s eight-minute version of Ode To Billy Joe may yet bring the poor boy back to life. King’s rendition of I Was Made to Love Her is even more compelling, carrying a Cassius Clay-class punch.

Memphis Soul Stew, a recent hit for the combo, came off like home made apple pie. The clincher was Soul Serenade, a tortuous yet tender ballad, which Curtis blew through on his saxello with almost naive sensitivity.

Toronto is obviously hip to the Curtis message; the club was packed with people of all ages, the over 30’s predominating.


Curtis and the Kingpins are as tight as a hot rod piston, with comparable power. The group comprises Jimmy Smith on electric piano, Mervyn Bronson on bass, Al Thompson on drums, and Stirling McGee on guitar, all first- class sidemen.

Curtis also introduced a young female vocalist, one Ruby Michelle, who contributed more than adequate workouts on current contemporary favorites like Chain of Fools.

The music is down to earth. The group is the equal of anything, anywhere. Curtis is King for those who like good music well played.