Otis Redding and his band were just four miles from Madison Municipal airport when their private plane crashed.

It was the first time Otis had taken the eight-seater aircraft, which he had purchased to make touring less hectic. Unfortunately it would also be his last.

At 3.30pm on that Sunday in December 1967, the plane encountered a heavy storm, causing it to crash into the freezing waters of Lake Monona – a mere three miles short of the runway – killing seven of its eight passengers.

Guitar legend Steve Cropper, who had been working with Otis days prior to the crash, had the unenviable task of finishing the last song Otis, the crown prince of soul, had recorded.

“It was (Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay. We both knew, instantly, it was going to be a hit.

“So the last thing he’d said to me as he was leaving the studio was ‘see ya Monday.’ We still had work to do on the track, it was in the can, but there were additions to be made. But I believed what he said, I mean, there was no reason not to,“ he says in his distinctive drawl.

“When the call came I was waitin’ at Indianapolis Airport to go to Memphis. It didn’t go down good. He was my friend, a great guy who was so big that he looked like a football player, but in reality was just a country boy with a big ol’ heart. The most non-prejudiced human being I’ve ever met, a man who looked at people as people and liked everybody.

“That was a miserable flight on Sunday afternoon.“

These additions Steve dismisses as just the inclusion of the “gulls, sea waves and electric guitar“, but combined with Otis’s distinctive, husky voice, it produced a song which would become the first posthumous track to top the UK and US charts.

“It was hard listening to that song for a very long time,“ Steve trails off. “The thing with Otis was that he treated every take, every track as though it was the last song he was ever going to sing. He gave it his all. And in this case it was.

“A lot of people didn’t believe in it. But the thing is, Otis and I did.

“Some people said it was too pop, too laid back, that it wasn’t ‘Otis Redding’ enough, that it needed to be either a really strong dance song or a really strong ballad. Dock of the Bay was right in the middle.

“A lot of people at the time said it wouldn’t have been a hit had he not passed away. But I don’t believe that, there’s no way to prove it without a time machine. Maybe one of these days I’ll go back and find out.“

Despite trying to downplay his involvement in finishing one of the greatest songs ever made, there’s no denying that Steve has had a remarkable career.

For the first seven years of his life he and his family lived a basic existence on a farm in Dora, Missouri, a place where there was no electricity, and anything other than church music was associated with the devil.

A move to Memphis and the discovery of Gospel music changed everything: “if there’s such a thing as getting a bug, then that was it, I couldn’t get enough.“

Inspired to learn guitar, his first belonged to his uncle, a Gibson F1, stored in a cupboard for visitors to play when friends gathered for a jam session after church. This five dollar guitar now sits pride of place in the Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tennessee.

From those humble beginnings, Steve went on to play in Stax Records house band, Blues Brothers band, and was a founding member of both Booker T & The MG’s and The Mar-Keys. He was also co-writer of classics including Knock On Wood and In The Midnight Hour.

Thanks to his talent he is still an in-demand musician and producer, and has contributed to albums by Paul Simon, Ringo Starr and Buddy Guy, to name but a few. He’s also often cited in music magazines as one of the world’s greatest guitarists.

Yet the 72-year-old, nicknamed The Colonel (given to him for being bossy as a child), shows no signs of slowing down as he’s set to come to the Watford Colosseum, as part of his Stax Rhythmn and Blues tour.

“It has been pretty impressive hasn’t it?“ he chuckles. “But I love performing. From those early days of hearing gospel on the radio, well, it just took my soul.“