Mike Finnigan, Percy Sledge bring soul to Salina

In a roundabout way, last winter's soaring energy prices are luring Mike Finnigan back to Kansas for a one-of-a-kind Saturday appearance with soul master Percy "When a Man Loves a Woman" Sledge.

"Man, we had two utility bills that were over six grand a month last winter," says Chad Kassem, the driving force behind Blue Heaven Studio and the APO record label, both based in Salina.

To compensate, Kassem decided to book a concert in the former church that houses Blue Heaven Studio. He booked Sledge.

Then, knowing that so much of Sledge's music is, in Kassem's words, "organ driven," he went looking for the best Hammond B3 player available. He found Finnigan, who, with his band The Serfs, dominated the Lawrence music scene in the late 1960s before moving to session-rich Los Angeles.

"I can't believe how many fans Finnigan has around here," Kassem says. "I think we're selling as many tickets for him as we are for Percy."

To get to Blue Heaven Studio from Lawrence, take I-70 to Salina; turn left (south) at the Ninth Street exit to Walnut Street; turn left to Eighth and Walnut. The studio/church is on the corner. Seating is limited to 400.

To order tickets, call (785) 825-8609. Tickets are $30.

At first, plans called for Finnigan being part of Sledge's backup band, but due to popular demand, he's making arrangements for Finnigan to perform a couple tunes during the one-hour set.

"It's going to be a Percy Sledge concert," Kassem explains.

Before Sledge takes the stage, Finnigan will sit in with Kansas City blues guitarist D.C. Bellamy and his band. Chicago bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson will open with an acoustic set, starting about 7:30 p.m.

While he's in Salina, Finnigan is scheduled to record with blues rocker Jimmy D. Lane, who's released two CDs on Kassem's APO label. Lane is a son of the late Chicago blues legend Jimmy Rogers.

Kassem says he and Finnigan will explore the possibility of the keyboardist recording a solo CD for APO. To date, none of Finnigan's solo albums are available on disc.

Finnigan currently is juggling tour appearances with bands backing Taj Mahal, Etta James and Crosby, Stills and Nash.

Though Sledge, 59, has never matched his 1966 mega hit, "When a Man Loves a Woman," he's remained active on the blues and soul circuits. An Alabama native, Sledge released a CD of all-new material on the Sky Ranch/Virgin label in 1994. Recorded in L.A., "Blue Night" is a collection of slow-burning, countrified soul ballads, featuring appearances by Steve Cropper and Bobby Womack.

Clearly, "When a Man Loves a Woman" has staying power. It's been featured in the movie soundtracks for "The Big Chill," "The Crying Game" and, of course, "When a Man Loves a Woman." The song reached No. 2 on the British charts in 1987 after it was featured in a Levi's commercial.


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