Beyond the Spotlight: Otis Redding, His Family, Music and Legacy

Karla Redding-Andrews 

As a child growing up, Karla Redding-Andrews (‘85) didn’t realize her dad was famous.

“Oh no, no, no,” she said. “Even when I was here at Georgia Southern, I had no idea of the magnitude, of the impact my father had on the music world, or even other people’s lives. We just weren’t raised that way. I mean we knew we were very lucky. We lived on a beautiful farm and we had nice things, but we just figured Dad went to work.” 

It wasn’t until Redding-Andrews’ junior year at Georgia Southern that her classmates realized that her father was the great R&B singer, Otis Redding.

“At the beginning of my junior year, my brothers, The Reddings, had some hit records and were in the music news. And someone said to me, ‘I can’t believe you’re Otis Redding’s daughter.’ And I’m like, yeah, but it’s not really that big of a deal. He’s not Elvis. 

“And they were like, ‘You don’t get it. He was better than Elvis.’”

Inspired to Research 

That conversation inspired Redding-Andrews to do some research on her father and find out more about his life. Since that time,
she has strived to find ways to keep his legacy alive.

The student-curated exhibit of Otis Redding artifacts displayed through April at the Statesboro Convention and Visitors Bureau (SCVB), is one such example. This must-see exhibit highlights her father’s legacy of philanthropy and the Otis Redding Foundation’s music education programs for young people.

“Now I know,” said Redding-Andrews. “And as I do events like this museum exhibit with Georgia Southern students, I get to learn so much more about my dad and what an impact he had and what a great person he was.”

Otis Redding performed at Georgia Southern in October 1965. Because of that connection and being a graduate herself, Redding-Andrews had long been talking to the University about creating something Otis Redding-related.

“We finally worked out this project,” she explained. “I worked closely with the students to select memorabilia that told the story of my father, reflecting what he did off the road and outside of the studio. It’s so wonderful to see the legacy of Otis Redding living on and having younger generations discover him.”

L-R: Redding’s widow Zelma, Redding-Andrews, and her sons Jarred and Justin

The exhibit is a collaboration between the SCVB and Georgia Southern University History Department. Georgia Southern Museum director and history professor, Brent Tharp, Ph.D., teaches a museum studies class each spring semester. His students design and curate a new Museum on Main exhibit while working toward their master’s in history with a concentration in public history. He says that the exhibit reflects another side of the music icon.

“Otis Redding’s music is a well-established piece. What the public may not know is how much his foundation has done and how much his family continued his legacy in this area,” said Tharp.

Redding Always a Philanthropic Man

Redding’s philanthropy is featured prominently in the exhibit.

“Well you know my dad was already being very philanthropic even before he died,” said Redding-Andrews. “He was giving out college scholarships and he had already put a plan in place to invite young kids out to the ranch. He wanted to bring underserved kids to the ranch every summer and let them talk with industry professionals. Professional musicians, people in television, people in radio.”

In 2007, on the 50th anniversary of Redding’s death, Redding-Andrews and his widow Zelma created an exhibit for the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. With it they started the Otis Redding Foundation and the first Otis Music Camp, now in its 12th year. 

Substitute for Musical Talent

Surprisingly, Redding-Andrews didn’t end up with musical talent like her father.

“You know I look at my brothers, Dexter and Otis III, who have Dad’s talent. I have none of that musical talent. So I get to continue it in another way through the music and education programs of the foundation. It is amazing what it has done for those kids. Our biggest success story to come out of the Otis Redding Foundation is a young African American man that we supported to become an orchestra conductor. Now he’s an orchestra conductor living in Berlin.”

And Redding-Andrews is thrilled that she was able to come up with a project involving Georgia Southern students. As a student herself, she majored in communication arts with an emphasis in public relations. Part of her degree requirements included an internship. She was the marketing and advertising assistant for an Atlanta company involved in shopping center development.

“I learned so much with that internship that helps me with the business of the foundation. And I wouldn’t have had that opportunity if it hadn’t been for Georgia Southern.”

Giving Back to Georgia Southern

Redding-Andrews has served on the board of the Georgia Southern Alumni Association and returns to the Statesboro Campus every year for homecoming and most other events. True Blue runs in the family. She met her husband of 32 years, Timothy Andrews (’84) while a student, and her son Jarred is now a junior business major.
  “You know Statesboro, being here for those years was wonderful. And I think that’s why I continue to come back and give back every opportunity that I can. And I will do whatever I need to do to continue being a part, an active part, of Georgia Southern.” 

— Liz Walker

Redding-Andrews is vice president and executive director of the Otis Redding Foundation. She is vice-chair of the Georgia Music Foundation board and on the Georgia Film, Music & Digital Entertainment Advisory Commission. In 2018, she received the “She Rocks Award” from The Women’s International Music Network, where she was honored alongside Pat Benatar, Melissa Etheridge, The B-52’s Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson.