I cried a little when I read today that the great Percy Sledge had passed away. He was 73 and died peacefully at his home in East Baton Rogue Parish, Louisiana. Check out this video on YouTube.
|PERCY SLEDGE IN 1966|
When a Man Loves a Woman brings back vivid radio memories for me. Working as a rock jock, I loved new 45s from Atlantic Records. The labels were bold black type on a cherry red background. They seemed “heavier” than releases on most other labels – Atlantic 45s had the aura of loving warmth. Percy Sledge’s When a Man Loves a Woman was an Atlantic release.
YOU GOTTA MOVE…
There are many stories in Top 40 DJ lore about long records used/played by DJs when they needed to take a piss. For some DJs When a Man Loves a Woman, at 3:42 [fact check me please], was one of those “excuse me, gotta pee” songs. Others that I recall were Sky Pilot, Hey Jude, the long version of Crimson & Clover and Money.
Stairway to Heaven was always good for taking a dump. During the long version of In A Gadda da Vita you could trip down the 7/11 and pickup some Oreos. Alice’s Restaurant was for carnal knowledge.
The reason I am bringing this up in the context of Percy Sledge is because one night when I was on-the-air, I needed to take a piss. So, I played When a Man Loves a Woman.
I had just started my first radio job as a KISD Good Guy at a hot, hot Top 40 hit station in Sioux Falls. The on-air studio was located in a large glass display window on a busy street called The Window on Main Street. People would walk and drive by at all times of the day or night and see me – the DJ – live on the air.
The Window on Main Street was located in seedy neighborhood close to several notorious strip clubs. I worked the graveyard shift, so sometimes the people watching got interesting after the bars closed at 2:00am.
The night I decided to play When a Man Loves a Woman, I started the song, walked toward the glass window and surprise! A beautiful young Native American woman appeared on the other side of the glass just inches from me.
She was singing along with Percy's voice blasting from the speaker outside the window. So, I went with my vibe and started singing along with her – mouthing the words, sorta dancing with each other. We both sang so passionately. We craved every word that Percy sang like they were pages from our own lives.
THE HITS JUST KEEP ON COMING
The record began to fade and I leaped back behind the control board, hit a station jingle, and played the next record – Pushin’ To Hard by The Seeds. The woman outside the window was gone but I’ve never forgotten her or Percy Sledge.