It took a car accident and a mysterious stranger to bring three musicians together to form the trio Otis Heat, which is the featured act Feb. 15 at the Emerald of Siam nightclub in Richland.
Here's how those long-ago events transpired, according to Sean O'Neill, the frontman for Otis Heat.
"I was headed to a party in north Portland with drummer Adam Lucas, a college friend who I made music with at the time," he said. "Approaching a four-way, no-stop intersection in my little Alfa Romeo Spider, we collided with a little old Honda Accord."
The driver of the other car was Mike Warner, who later became the band's guitarist. Though none of the guys was seriously injured in the 2008 crash, they were a little shaken up by the forcible jolt.
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"A nearby stranger ran over and walked around the cars to verify there were no gasoline leaks," O'Neill said.
When the stranger was assured the guys were OK, he asked them their names, and they, in turn, asked him his.
"He told us his name was Otis, Otis Heat -- you know, like Bond, James Bond," O'Neill said chuckling, adding that the stranger appeared to be a drifter, about 50 years old, whose kindness and concern seemed genuine.
"Once he made sure we were OK, he said, 'Keep that smile up,' and that was that."
They never saw Otis Heat again after that night, but O'Neill never forgot him. He believes the accident was fated to happen because it brought three musicians together who just happened to be heading to the same party and a stranger whose name they borrowed to form a band.
"A discussion of music and economics ensued at the party. A few jam sessions occurred with Mike, Adam and I, and another guy on bass," O'Neill said. "But after some acoustic sessions, we decided a trio seemed to make the most sense."
So the trio decided to call themselves Otis Heat in honor of the stranger who came to their aid.
"That was the beginning of our power trio," O'Neill said. "Adam went back to graduate school after our first release, and now we have Buddy Weeks on drums."
As for the music of Otis Heat, it comes from a wide range of musical influences, from the soulful sounds of Nina Simone to the intensity of the '90s grunge movement, he said.
O'Neill sees the trio's evolution in sound as something that continues to capture the imagination of its audiences.
Doors to the Emerald of Siam nightclub, in the Uptown Shopping Center off Jadwin Avenue in Richland, open at 9 p.m. Cover is $7. The event is only open to the 21 and older crowd.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; email@example.com; Twitter: @dorioneal