Gavin Edwards on the backstory of Otis Redding’s classic song, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” the first posthumously-released single to go to number one…

Steve Cropper, who regularly backed Redding up as the guitarist for Booker T. and the MG’s (a.k.a. the Stax house band), remembered Redding calling him from the Memphis airport to make sure he was at the studio. When Redding arrived, the pair sat on beige folding chairs, hammering out the song. “I helped him with the second verse a little bit, helped him with the bridge,” Mr. Cropper said in a phone interview. “After he sang, ‘I watch the ships roll in, watch them roll out again,’ I said, ‘Have you thought that if a ship rolls, it’s going to take on water and sink?’” Redding told him, “That’s the way I want it, Crop.”

The duo went into the studio in November, joined by Donald Dunn (known as Duck) on bass, Al Jackson on drums, Booker T. Jones on piano and three horn players. In an interview, Mr. Jones remembered the sessions as having “kind of a hectic feeling — so much so that I remember a number of people sleeping over at the studio.” Redding and Mr. Cropper planned to ask the Staple Singers to contribute backing vocals to “Dock of the Bay,” which never happened. The whistling at the song’s end came in a section earmarked for vocal ad-libbing; on one early take, Redding sputtered and the engineer Ron Capone told him, “You’re not going to make it as a whistler.”

Read Edwards’ full story here.