Mike Finnigan has been a part of an amazing amount of rock and roll music over the last four-plus decades. A big highlight was playing organ on the tracks "Rainy Day, Dream Away" and "Still Raining, Still Dreaming" on Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland album. He has also played organ and/or sang with many other artists, including Crosby, Stills & Nash, Etta James, Dave Mason, Ringo Starr, Joe Cocker, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal and Eric Burdon.
On Friday, Mike Finnigan & Friends will be performing at a benefit concert for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP), an educational program that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as life skills, with children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences.
The event will be held from 4 to 7 p.m. at The Hill-Adobe, 15 E. Carrillo St. in Santa Barbara. Tickets are $65 and can be purchased by calling 805.962.1442; it is highly recommended that you purchase tickets in advance because this is a small place and tickets are expected to sell out.
Finnigan talked to Noozhawk about the upcoming show and filling in for David Crosby. The full interview, in which he also tells stories about playing with Hendrix, James, Raitt and more, is available by clicking here.
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Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at the upcoming show?
Mike Finnigan: What I'm looking forward to is how it's going to go, because I haven't played with [drummer and TRAP founder] Eddie [Tuduri] in probably 25 years. We've known each other for quite a long time. The other guys are all people I've played with at various times, in various settings. It's just going to be a pretty loose deal, but it's going to be fun because of that. It's basically going to be a bunch of guys on a high wire [laughs], if you know what I mean. I mean, we're going to have one rehearsal. But we're going to be playing Rhythm & Blues music.
I don't know if you know the other guys playing. Jim Pugh is another keyboard player that I used to work with with Etta James. He played with Robert Cray's band for about 25 years, and has played with all kinds of other people, lots of records with a lot of different people.
He's somebody that's a very good friend of mine and that I admire a lot. He and I will take care of the piano and organ.
And then there's a couple of guitar players, Bill Lynch and Chris Pinnick. Bill's an old buddy of mine from way back. I met him in the '60s even. He lived in Lawrence, Kan., and we played around Kansas City and different places in different bands. We played together over the years in different kinds of set-ups. Chris, I only have played with once. He used to play with Chicago. He's a real fine guitar player, and I guy I've know, but not that well, for quite a few years.
I just know that he's a really great musician.
Tim Scott's a bass player who used to play with Jack Mack and the Heart Attack, among other bands. He's a really good singer and bass player, and he and I were in a band together that was just kind of a fun band called the Zen Blues Quartet. We made a CD a few years ago, and we've worked together in all kinds of configurations. He's coming down from Seattle — he moved up there a couple of years ago — to join us. So we're going to have one rehearsal and it'll be loose and dangerous, so that's fun.
JM: It sounds like with that group of musicians you can get away with only one rehearsal.
MF: Well, we have to [laughs]. You always want to be prepared.
And then Tata Vega, of course, she's a giant. She's a fantastic singer, and is just one of my favorites. I've known her, not really well, but I've known her for about 20 years. We actually did some singing together once for a film score, and I've been aware of her for many years, of course. She's just somebody I admire tremendously.
JM: I have to ask you about Crosby, Stills & Nash, who I know you worked with for a long time. What was a highlight for you of working with them?
MF: Oh my Lord, I mean I worked with them for 27 years. Well, I was doing a lot of other stuff at the same time. They weren't constantly on the road or always in the studio. I got a chance to make several albums with them, and travel all over the world with them. There's just a million things that were really great about that. They're all my friends.
I tell you, one of the most interesting things that happened, and was kind of a highlight, was ... I think it was Daylight Again. We had done all of the rhythm tracks, and there were some rough vocals on it in Los Angeles. The plan was to go to Hawaii. I mean, they were in the chips and living large in those days. They wanted to go to Hawaii and do the vocals. I sang a lot with that band, too. There were additional vocals, the three of them and some additional vocals sometimes on different things. So we rented this place right on the beach in Hawaii, just a fantastic setting. It was like some kind of dream scene, like the beach was 25 yards out the backdoor. We'd go to the studio every day.
Crosby, at that point, it was not too long before he went to prison.
You know, he had some problems with substance abuse, among other things, that eventually wound up getting him put in jail where he sobered up finally, under lock and key. But at that time, it was not too long before then, and every day he was supposed to show up in Hawaii to do this work on these vocals, and he never came. And so I wound up being the third voice on about two-thirds of the album. In other words, it was Stills, Nash & Finnigan [laughs]. But that's not what the album said. I think Timothy B. Schmidt actually sang on a couple tracks, too. David had one track that he sang, or maybe two that he sang by himself with some additional vocals. But in terms of the ensemble stuff it was the three of us, or else the two of them and Timothy Schmidt.
That was kind of unusual to have that. Historically it was kind of odd. I've still got that album, and occasionally I hear tracks from it, you know, "Southern Cross" and different tunes like that, and I go, "Oh yeah, that's when I was Crosby."
— Jeff Moehlis is a Noozhawk contributing writer and a professor of mechanical engineering at UC Santa Barbara. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his web site, music-illuminati.com. The opinions expressed are his own.