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In Memoriam: Percy Sledge

April 15th, 2015

Born November 25, 1941
Died April 14, 2015

Obituary by John Barrett Jr. (“DJ Verve” on Birdland, Sundays 12-4 PM)

If you know anything about Percy Sledge, you know two things: he is unrelated to the girls of Sister Sledge, and you know him for his debut recording, “When a Man Loves a Woman.” He had several other hits and continued to tour and record through the rest of his life, but it was this song that defined him. Considering the tune’s status among soul ballads, that is not bad thing.

As one Facebook post put it, it is better to peak early than not to peak at all. Mr. Sledge’s peak was lofty indeed, and the permanence of his song is indisputable. If “When a Man Loves a Woman” can survive a Michael Bolton cover version, it can survive anything.

Percy Sledge was born in a small Alabama town, and worked as a hospital orderly while singing on weekends with his group The Esquires. One of these barroom performances, in 1965, benefited greatly from a personal tragedy: his girlfriend had left him to pursue a modeling career. Telling his band to lay down a slow groove, Percy improvised a lyric of lost love that he called “Why Did You Leave Me?” That might have been the whole story had it not been for the ambitious disc jockey seated on a nearby barstool.

The DJ in question was Quin Ivy; beyond his broadcasting duties he wrote songs and operated a small recording studio. Ivy liked Sledge’s voice and liked “Why Did You Leave Me?”, but he thought the tune needed refining. Two members of The Esquires, bassist Calvin Lewis and organist Andrew Wright, modified the tune until Ivy was satisfied; now named “When a Man Loves a Woman”, it was almost a different song and Percy didn’t get  a writer’s credit on his greatest hit.

The recording was done at night at Quin Ivy’s tiny studio in Sheffield, Alabama, but not with Percy’s regular band. Instead of The Esquires, Ivy used some studio musicians from nearby Florence, including Spooner Oldham on organ and Roger Hawkins on drums. In later years this group would play behind a variety of acts from Cher to Aretha Franklin, and become known as the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. A few days later horns were added, local players to came to the studio after a bar gig, drunk and out of tune.

When someone suggested Quin take the tune to Atlantic Records they complained about the horns and paid for a new session with the Memphis Horns being brought down from Stax Records. Percy rerecorded the tune, the new session was very expensive and in the end Atlantic released the earlier take, drunk horns and all. It went straight to #1, proving you can do it right the first time.

Percy Sledge reached the R&B Top Forty several more times in the following years, including “Take Time to Know Her” and “It Tears Me Up.” A later hit of his, 1974′s “I’ll Be Your Everything”, achieved later notoriety when its songwriter George Soule noticed the similarity to Tommy Page’s hit “I’ll Be Your Everything” and took sued Page over it. Percy Sledge had a long and distinguished career, but whatever else he did will always be outshone by the brilliance of his earliest song.

This article owes a major debt to Peter Guralnick’s book Sweet Soul Music, from which I learned much of material recounted above.

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On to the next big thing

April 13th, 2015

Now that WIDR Week 2015 is officially over, it’s time to start planning our WIDR Block Party 2015.

If you were present at last year’s event or WIDR Block Party 2013, you’ll know that it takes a lot of input – in the form of time, energy, and donations – from the community.

If you’ve never attended the WIDR Block Party in the past, think of it as our city’s own little festival. It’s an entire day, located right in the heart of Kalamazoo’s Vine neighborhood, dedicated to good music, good company, and local businesses. WIDR fm hand picks local and touring bands to perform live over the course of the day.

Music, dancing, food, friends – it’s really the perfect way to spend your day in a family-friendly environment.

If you have a band, business, or other suggestion for our 2015 WIDR Block Party this fall, please feel free to send it along to Sophie at widr.promotion@gmail.com. Thank you!

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Vote for DJ Bosco!

April 3rd, 2015

DJ BOSCO NEEDS YOUR HELP!!!  Help send WIDR’s very own DJ Bosco to Bonnaroo 2015! He’s entered last week’s episode of DONTBESQUARE JAMZ in a contest to cover and broadcast live from Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival 2015! Please vote for him by reposting and favoriting his entry directly on the Mixcloud website! Do your part!  Visit his entry here: http://tinyurl.com/qhrlbpn

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Thank You!

March 30th, 2015

We did it! WIDR Week 2015 was a huge success and we want to thank all of our generous donors. We met our goal of $12,000 and had an absolute BLAST doing it.

WIDR Week this year proved to us that we have an incredible support system in this community. We would like to specifically thank DIT Kalamazoo, Home Bar, Satellite Records, Bell’s Eccentric Cafe, Arcadia Brewing Company, Louie’s Trophy House, and Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo. We want to give a shout out to our WIDR DJs who not only promoted our events and raised funds through their programs, but also those who attended our events, spun records at Home Bar and Arcadia, and went above and beyond to make this our best year ever. Thank you also to the bands, touring and local, who made our showcases and WIDR All Nidr possible. WIDR is all about the music and supporting artists we care about.

Lastly, thank you to our listeners. You helped raise TWELVE THOUSAND DOLLARS for this station and your support means so much more than you know. We are here for you and because of you.

As always, keep it tuned to 89.1fm WIDR Kalamazoo and keep supporting #RadioEvolution.

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Happy First Official Day of WIDR Week 2015!

March 14th, 2015

It has officially begun! WIDR Week 2015 kicks off tonight at Bat Guano’s SwaG! Dance Party. We’ll be at the Home Bar in downtown Kalamazoo starting at 9 to take your donations. Thank you for your generosity and support! #WIDRWeek2015

CALL IN AND DONATE 269-387-6303 ! OR ONLINE AT www.mywmu.com/WIDR !

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WIDR Picks a Flick: The Blues Brothers

March 6th, 2015

One awesome thing about WIDR Week 2015 is that there is  some great event for absolutely every type of person. Do you like loud music and having a couple of craft beers with friends? The Bell’s showcase is perfect for you! Would you rather stay in and enjoy the comfort of your own home? The WIDR All Nidr on Monday night is a live broadcast of multiple local bands so you can listen from the car or anywhere you have an internet connection!

We came up with a  really fun idea this year that we think will please both types of people. Get ready for movie night at Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo! They’re great supporters of our station (you may have heard a spot on air thanking them for that support) and we are excited to present The Blues Brothers on Wednesday, March 18 at 7:30pm.

The flick starts at 7:30pm but be certain to show up early as Alamo has strict policies to ensure everyone has the ultimate viewing experience. You can buy tickets online or stop in early before the show.

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WIDR Week Showcase at Louies!

March 5th, 2015

Our final showcase of WIDR Week 2015 is at Louie’s Back Room featuring Cheap Girls, Jake Simmons & The Little Ghosts, and Bike Tuff. Tickets for this event are $12 for the day of but have time to get yours early and save $4! Tickets before March 20 are only $8 and available at Satellite Records and online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/1311573

Thanks to Bo and Louie’s for their hard work to help put this event together.

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Sic Musiq Live at Faunce

March 4th, 2015

You’ve heard him on the radio and now you can see him live right on campus! DJ Sic Musiq will take over Faunce on Tuesday, March 17 from 2-4pm. He’ll have a full set up right in front of the “bird cage” on WMU’s campus.

Nothing like a live dj to brighten up your walk to class. It’ll surely get you in the party mood for St. Patrick’s Day night!

Sic will be giving out WIDR tshirts while supplies last so stop by early and support Radio Evolution.

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The Official WIDR Week 2015 Poster

March 3rd, 2015

Here is the entire list of events for WIDR Week 2015! Thanks to Ed Ryan for this awesome flyer. We’re so excited to post it up all over town.

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WIDR Week Showcase at Satellite Records!

March 2nd, 2015

We’re so happy to be partnering with Satellite Records this WIDR Week for another showcase! This all-ages event will take place at 6pm at the local record store and feature Michigan artists Wayne Szalinski, Cardboard Highway, and WWEmo.  We’re asking for a suggested $5 donation to support Radio Evolution.

Wayne Szalinski, describing themselves as ‘post-whatevs,’ hail from East Lansing and just recently released Black Mirror, their first full length. From their bandcamp: “‘Black Mirror’ is a neo-noir that struggles with masculinity/identity, entangled sexuality and violence, and questions why we bother to love at all.”

Also playing this showcase is Cardboard Highway, shoegaze-y indie rock, and WWEmo, Kzoo newbies. We love them both and are so excited to have them on this bill.

This show is all ages so bring your friends, your grandma, your baby – whatever! Come on out, WIDR listeners, and support local music and college radio.

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