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MADISON, Wis. -- When Ben Cauley left Madison in 1967...

December 01, 2007|From the Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- When Ben Cauley left Madison in 1967, he was a 20-year-old in shock.

The trumpeter was the only survivor of the plane crash that killed Otis Redding and other members of his band, the Bar-Kays.

They were on their way to a show in Madison before their twin-engine aircraft plunged into Lake Monona on Dec. 10, 1967, miles from the airport. Cauley was rescued from the lake's icy waters and suffered only minor injuries.

After being released from Methodist Hospital, Cauley left town so fast that he didn't pick up his trumpet or checkbook that authorities recovered from the water.

He has never returned -- until now.

To mark the 40th anniversary of the crash, Cauley has agreed to appear at an event on Monday celebrating Redding's life.

Cauley, now 60, said he plans to say a few words and play a few songs on his trumpet. He said he would be sure to play "(Sittin' on) The Dock of the Bay," which was recorded just three days before the crash and later topped the music charts.

"I knew one day I would come back," he said in a telephone interview from Memphis, Tenn., where he lives. "There were a number of times that I thought about it but didn't have the strength. I'm coming this time."

Cauley went on to have a successful career in music after the Bar-Kays regrouped. He later played with Isaac Hayes, the Doobie Brothers and others.

Monday's tribute, which he'll attend with his wife, Shirley, will be held at Monona Terrace convention center overlooking the lake, near the crash site.

A few hundred people are expected to attend the free event. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz will read a statement from Gov. Jim Doyle declaring Dec. 10 "Otis Redding Day," and local musicians will play his music.

Cauley said he considered Redding a big brother and he thanked God for every minute they had together. He said he has been honored by Madison's tribute and his request to return: "That means so much."

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