The trumpeter Ben Cauley was a member of the Stax group the Bar-Kays and the only survivor of the 1967 plane crash that killed most of his bandmates along with Otis Redding. And while he has long been known as the sole survivor of the crash, he was also a survivor in many other ways. He had struggled with health issues for years, including a stroke he suffered in 1989, but he persevered through it all and continued to play his trumpet.
Cauley was playing with the Bar-Kays while still attending high school at Booker T Washington High School in Memphis. When he was a senior he would be picked up at school on a Friday, travel and play with Redding over the weekend and come back to school the next week. Some of the band members needed permission slips from their parents to travel with the band.
On 10 December 1967 they were travelling in Redding's new twin engine Beechcraft when it crashed into Lake Monona near Madison, Wisconsin. Able to hold on to a seat cushion, Cauley survived. Another band member, bassist James Alexander, was on a different plane.
After the crash, the pair rebuilt the Bar-Kays and backed Isaac Hayes on his landmark album, Hot Buttered Soul. The Bar-Kays were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. Cauley toured with Hayes, and also played with Aretha Franklin, the Doobie Brothers and many others. He was a well-known session musician, and his daughter Chekita Cauley-Campbell said she often recognised the sound of his trumpet on records because it was so distinctive. “No one could play like him,” she said. “It was a very distinct sound. It was a pitch above the roof.”
Ben Cauley, musician: born 3 October 1947; died 21 September 2015.
- More about:
- Ben Cauley