Patty Finney - Singer/Songwriter
J.R. Reed Music Company in downtown Austin was the place to be in 1960s Austin.
Although Patty Finney started playing piano long before she got her own piano in the mid-60s - J.R. Reed supplied the piano, the sheet music, the piano contests and her first 45-rpm single record - 'When A Man Loves A Woman' by Percy Sledge. She went in to J.R. Reeds to purchase 'Red Rubber Ball' by the Cyrkle, but couldn't think of the name or anything more than it was a love song and walked out with Sledge's tune. She liked it.
She became a fan of Mike Nesmith because of his musicianship and even took his name for years as a child. She scribbled 'Mike' on one of her other favorite 45-rpm records, 'Mona Lisa' by Nat King Cole.
"As a child, my step-sister and I were dropped off downtown on Saturday afternoons to spend our allowances if we were good enough to clean our rooms to meet inspections. J.R. Reed was my favorite place to spend my dollars," said Finney. She got her first piano after the death of her mother, then, with many years of classical piano training and earning awards as a drummer in the Travis High School band, she picked up her first used guitar in 1970 and still clings to that old Heritage Gibson, formerly owned by Austin artist Tony Airoldi.
"The first song I learned was 'The Boxer' by Simon and Garfunkle," she said.
Thwarted by a trial stint at the University of Texas - Austin on a music scholarship for percussion in 1974, Finney set aside music, honed her life, played guitar for the kids and fun, and then finally decided in 1993, after her father's death, that she was destined to play music.
So, she began writing songs and sang for people for the first time in her life.
"I was scared to death to sing. My Dad bought a Wollensack reel-to-reel recorder when I was 10 years old and I loved recording things. I played 'DJ' and made up recordings of the first few bars of songs to make a game to see who could identify the songs. I recorded the Monkees on TV and even the first landing on the moon. But, when I sang into the microphone, I was appalled I didn't sound like the Monkees and never sang again - until I started writing songs," said Finney.
She still has the Astatic bullet-type microphone from the old days no doubt purchased at J.R. Reeds for only $12.95. And the microphone stand her Dad got for it. "They don't make stands like that anymore," she said. So, she began her career as a singer-songwriter in 1993 and before the turn of the century she was earning awards as a songwriter and accolades as a singer.
Helping to support her family, she worked full-time as an editor for the Elgin Courier in Elgin, Texas, close to the country home near Austin where she raised her two kids...and still played music. More than 20 years after getting her start at the old Chicago House on Trinity Street in downtown Austin, she has left behind several bands to venture out as a solo artist.
In 1998, the jazz trio, Th' Mezz, released 'Live Under Sunny Skies' featuring Finney on guitar and vocals, Forrest Coppock on mandolin and a bevy of bass and percussionists captured in live performances. Th' Mezz performed live on KUT-FM during the release of 'Live Under Sunny Skies' after a successful release at the old Tower Records on the Drag and a show following at the Carousel Lounge. Leaving the trio due to financial hardships in the early early 2000s, she played with the country music Jamboree in McDade, continued writing and playing gigs around central Texas and finally decided it was time to release an all-original CD, 'Midnight Radio,' in 2009, with the assistance of Tommy Byrd, Mike Jasper and a host of some of the best of Austin's musicians. Working with Warren Hood, Greg Whitfield, Connie Gatling, David Hoffpauir, Erik Berglund, Tommy Robinson, Dick Dooley and Terri Fann, Midnight Radio received airplay around the world. "I was playing with th'Mezz when Lady Bird Johnson came up to me at a show in a warehouse district restaurant one night. Lady Bird said, "I have so enjoyed listening to you sing." Finney was inspired to write the song on her passing, 'Lady Bird Waltz', which is on 'Midnight Radio'."
"I produced a CD thinking I might never get the chance to do it again," she said.
But, in early 2015, she met up with David Sanger, drummer for Asleep at the Wheel, and decided to go 'all out' and do another original CD. "My brother, Jim Finney, was their road manager for nearly 30 years and told me I should let Sanger produce a CD for me. I waited about six months and then said, "Hell, yeah. Within three months, we had the music in the bag," said Finney. Nine-time Grammy-award-winning drummer with Asleep at the Wheel, Sanger, this year produced a new hit CD by Austin-born singer-songwriter Patty Finney, according to internationally-known mastering guru Jerry Tubb.
“I just want to congratulate you on such a fine new record! Fine in every aspect, the songs, your voice, the musicianship, and production by David Sanger. Kudos on a job well done, highly recommended!” wrote Tubb about 'Wanted.' 'Wanted' will be released this fall in Austin, featuring nine original songs by Finney and her soothing vocals mixed with the background vocals of Elizabeth McQueen, formerly with Asleep at the Wheel. "In 'Wanted,' Patty Finney brings a gentle touch to the brawny production of the Asleep at the Wheel crew, and together they create a classic album with a classic Austin sound," said Austin writer, musician and producer Mike Jasper in the Oak Hill Gazette, May 14, 2015.
Sanger drives the subtly intense music in production as well as with the drumming with McQueen's bass player, Lindsay Green, on both acoustic and electric bass, laying down the foundation. Local musical icon Chris Gage takes the rhythm guitar by the handle with some nylon string and acoustic tracks and adds piano and Hammond B3 organ to several mixes. "Sanger and I were hand-in-hand on the direction of each song," said Finney. "He listened to my solo versions, told the foundation crew the essence of each song and not once could I disagree. In two days we had all nine songs in the bucket. It was a whirlwind studio tour for me." Lloyd Maines put down some signature pedal steel on several tracks and tenor saxophone player for Asleep at the Wheel, Jay Reynolds, didn't miss out on getting in some saxophone licks, as well as being the engineer for the project. Warren Hood on fiddle, Andrew Nafziger on electric guitar, Jon Doyle on clarinet, David Jellema on coronet and a string quartet arranged by Christopher Cox put the finishing touches on the tunes.
The foundation crew worked in Ray Benson's Bismeaux Studio in south Austin for the foundation tracks in February and returned in April (Sanger was on the road with the most recent Asleep at the Wheel release, A tribute to Bob Wills, in March) to add the string quartet, coronet and clarinet. Other tracks were added in Sanger's Lord Bangs' Loft studio, and also at Gage's and Maines' home studios.
'Wanted' is a collection of nine original songs aided by the likes the best musicians around Austin.
The result was explosive. The sound is true Texas with a gentle hint of old southern New Orleans jazz.