From the opening organ chords of “When a Man Loves a Woman” through the choir-style vocal backups through the song’s plaintive appeal to the heart, this timeless song is a case study in how the gospel music of the African American churches smoothly evolved and transitioned into Rhythm and Blues and Country Soul. With this one song, Sledge indelibly chiseled his name onto the “Rock of Ages” and only the passage of several millennia could ever wear down the inscription. To repeat an oft-repeated, timeworn, hackneyed yet still-applicable one-word description, the song is a “classic.”
Percy Sledge is performing this Saturday, January 28, at the Joy Theater downtown (1200 Canal Street, corner of Elks Place). The show starts at 8 p.m. and tickets are still available.
On Friday night, the 27th, Australia’s Little River Band, famous for their 1970s hit “Reminiscing,” will be onstage at the Joy, also starting at 8 p.m.
The Joy Theater box office opens at 6 p.m., two hours prior to each show.
A resident of the Baton Rouge area since the mid-1960s, Sledge was born and raised in rural Alabama and, like most R&B singers of his time, he cut his musical teeth singing in church choirs. Discovered by local disc jockey Quin Ivy, he recorded at Muscle Shoals studios in Alabama, where he frequently sang songs written by Spooner Oldham and Dan Penn. Not only did he sing gospel-influenced soul, Sledge was also among the pioneers of country-soul, singing songs by Charlie Rich and Kris Kristofferson in a gritty, passionate style.
When he recorded “When a Man Loves a Woman,” Sledge was reportedly not very impressed by it and he gave the writing credits to two of his backup band members. It hit the charts in 1966 on the prestigious Atlantic label and was an immediate smash that made it all the way to #1, shoving aside some of the most popular English groups, including the Beatles and Rolling Stones. Over the years the song has been covered dozens of times, including versions by Michael Bolton and Aaron Neville that went on to become hits for them. The song has also been used in several movies and television commercials.
Follow-up hits by Sledge included "Warm and Tender Love," "It Tears Me Up" and “Cover Me.” "Take Time to Know Her," another soulful, heart-rending ballad done up in the gospel choir style, reached the R&B Top Ten in 1968. In 1974, he left Atlantic for Capricorn Records, where he returned to the R&B Top 20 with "I'll Be Your Everything." After that, Sledge’s commercial success faded but he continued remain popular as a nostalgia act, touring and recording almost up to the present.
Sledge was an inaugural Rhythm and Blues Foundation Pioneer Award honoree in 1989. He won the W.C. Handy Blues Awards in 1996 for best Soul/Blues album of the year with his record Blue Night. In 2005, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio.
Two years later, Sledge was inducted into the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame for his contributions to the state's music. He is also an inductee of the Delta Music Museum in Ferriday, Louisiana. Most recently, a Christmas song he sang, “My Christmas Wish for You,” was included in a Louisiana artists Holiday collection produced by the LMHOF.
Little River Band
On their way to a performance in the Australian state of Victoria, an unnamed musical band passed a road sign for the township of Little River. Right then and there they decided that would be the name of the band and today, three and a half decades later, the Little River Band is still going strong.
Formed in Melbourne in early 1975, the Little River Band enjoyed sustained commercial success in not only Australia, but also in the United States. During its career, the band sold more than 25 million records and achieved thirteen Top 40 hits in the U.S., in addition to awards and hits in their native Australia. “Reminiscing,” a smooth ballad with strings and horns interspersed over the wistful, nostalgic lyrics, struck just the right chord with American radio audiences, reaching #3 on the pop charts in 1978. The Sleeper Catcher album that included the song sold over a million copies.
The band's original members were Glenn Shorrock (lead vocals), Graeham Goble (acoustic guitar and vocals), Beeb Birtles (rhythm guitar and vocals), Ric Formosa (lead guitar), Roger McLachlan (bass) and Derek Pellicci (drums). The music and lyrics for most of the group's early compositions were contributed by Goble and Shorrock with input from Birtles and guitarist David Briggs, a later addition to the band.
In the years following the success of “Reminiscing” and several follow-up hits, the band went through a dizzying succession of personnel changes until none of the original members remained. The group touring as the Little River Band today includes Wayne Nelson (lead vocals and bass), Rich Herring (lead guitar and vocals), Greg Hind (rhythm guitar and vocals), Chris Marion (keyboards and vocals) and Mel Watts (drums and vocals).
The band is no stranger to the New Orleans area, having performed at Harrah’s Casino Theater in recent years and at the last JeffFest in Metairie in 2000.
Coming Up in February
Just announced this week, the lineup of shows coming to the Joy Theater in February are:
- Friday, February 3 -- Hypnaughty, Thom Kaz. 9 p.m.
- Saturday, February 11 -- The New Orleans Warehouse .... Revisited. 8 p.m.
More information on both shows will be published as the dates get closer. To preview both of these shows, visit the following websites: www.thomkaz.com and https://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Warehouse-New-Orleans-Revisited/131062930272720?sk=info