Organist Andrew Wright co-wrote with bassist Calvin Lewis Percy Sledge's gold number one R&B/pop classic "When a Man Loves a Woman." Both Wright and Lewis were members of Sledge's cousin Jimmy Hughes' ("Steal Away") road band. The duo also backed Arthur Alexander ("Anna [Go to Him]"). In 1965, they began playing behind Sledge. All had regular nine-to-five jobs (Sledge was an orderly at Colbert County Hospital) and just performed on weekends at clubs in and around Sheffield, AL, and neighboring states.
One night at a club gig, Wright came across some chord progressions that he liked. The next day at rehearsal, Wright began playing the chords again. They decided to develop it into and a song and began performing it, though it wasn't yet "When a Man Loves a Woman." WLAY radio DJ Quin Ivy was an associate of producer Rick Hall of Fame Recording Studios in nearby Muscle Shoals, owned a record shop, Ivy's Tune Town, and was opening his own recording studio. He wanted to get into record production. Ivy approached Sledge about auditioning. He liked the song Wright and Lewis had written but still wanted a rewrite. Keeping the music the same, the two changed the title and the story.
"When a Man Loves a Woman" was recorded at Ivy's studio in late 1965 using some of the musicians who had played on hits produced by Hall: drummer Roger Hawkins, organist Spooner Oldham, bassist Junior Lowe, and Ivy's co-producer/guitarist Marlin Greene. Through Rick Hall, Ivy sent to the tape to Jerry Wexler of Atlantic Records.
In spring 1966, "When a Man Loves a Woman" became a million-seller, holding the number one R&B spot for four weeks and the number one pop spot for two weeks on Billboard's charts. The When a Man Loves a Woman LP peaked at number 37 pop in summer 1966. The single was used in a 1987 Levi jeans ad, reissued, and was a number two U.K. hit. A standard, "When a Man Loves a Woman" has been covered by countless artists (Shirley Scott, Barbara Mandrell, Wes Montgomery, Yusef Lateef), hitting number one Pop again, this time for Michael Bolton in fall 1991. ~ Ed Hogan