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Getting Respect: Louise Redding McClain and Her Brother, Otis Redding

Kurt Thum, Librarian, Digitization and Special Collections ,
Louise Redding McClain

Louise Redding McClain, a retired Los Angeles Public Library librarian, is the sister of the great singer/songwriter Otis Redding. She shared with us many fascinating and heartfelt stories about her life growing up in Macon, GA, as the oldest of 6 siblings, in a new oral history video.

This video highlights Louise's career as a librarian and reveals untold stories about Otis as a young boy and his sudden rise to fame. In this intimate oral history, she also reflects on her childhood in Georgia and the importance her father placed on getting an education, which he had been denied.

I first became acquainted with Louise Redding McClain 10 years ago at the Westwood Branch Library, where I was working as a part-time clerk and where she worked occasionally as a substitute librarian. Somehow I heard that her brother was Otis Redding, which naturally caught my attention, since "Dock of the Bay" is one of my favorite songs.

I have since moved on and now work as a librarian at the Central Library. I worked with librarian Wendy Westgate—who also knew Louise from the Westwood Library—to broach the idea of an oral history video with Louise, and we convinced her that she would be an interesting interview subject. Happily, she agreed to be interviewed for the video and after recording her, I set about piecing together her story from the video interview we shot.

Otis Redding as featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Immortals issue

Otis Redding as featured in Rolling Stone Magazine’s Immortals issue: The Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time.

We are very grateful to Louise for sharing her story with us and for giving us access to her personal collection of photos and memorabilia. We’d also like to thank all those on the library staff who facilitated this oral history project as well as Louise’s long-time friend Cheryl Powell, who helped us a lot on the day we recorded the video.

Otis Redding Sr.

Louise’s father, Otis Redding Sr., who was denied an education, but insisted that his children get an education.

Our previous oral history project featured Nancy Oda, a Japanese American whose family was interned in the Tule Lake Relocation Center during World War II after being forced to leave their home and close their business in Boyle Heights. You can watch it on the library’s YouTube Channel.