In a modest brick house in south Minneapolis, Steve Fingerett’s office still glimmers with reflected glory. On the walls are dozens of gold records he earned as a music promoter in the 1970s and the 1980s.
Fingerett’s job was procuring radio airplay for musicians ranging from Christopher Cross to Van Halen, and he delivered for 22 years as a regional promotion representative for Warner Bros. Records. Family members said it was a fun job that brought him into the inner circle of the music business, making it possible for Fingerett’s friends to meet some of the country’s top recording artists while they relaxed after a show.
Fingerett, 67, died on Oct. 18 from a stroke after he underwent surgery for a degenerative bone disease. One of the last songs he listened to, according to family friends, was the title track from Sly and the Family Stone’s album “Life,” which urges listeners to realize that, “You don’t have to die before you live.”
“He was a consummate promotion man,” recalled Jim Robinson, former program director at Cities 97.1, a popular adult contemporary station. “He was passionate about music.”
Born in Chicago, Fingerett moved to Minneapolis in 1971 to attend the University of Minnesota. In 1972, he volunteered to work at the Whole, a legendary music club in the basement of Coffman Memorial Union, where he helped arrange performances and manage the books. He also met his future wife, Ricki Gale, who also wound up working for a record label. They later divorced.
Allison Fingerett said her father took her to her first concert — Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers — when she was 10.
“I was always going backstage,” said Allison, who remembers her father introducing her to such bands as ZZ Top and the Goo Goo Dolls. “I used it all the time to help make friends. Like: ‘Oh, my dad is really good friend with Prince.’ It made me feel cool.”
In reality, Fingerett said, her dad met Prince “only” 10 or 15 times. She still has a photo of the flowers Prince sent her parents to celebrate her birth.
Former colleagues said Fingerett was instrumental in helping Prince get his first radio airplay in the 1970s. Benjie Mchie, a former KQRS announcer, said he remembers getting a tape of Prince’s first single, “Soft and Wet,” during an after-show party in 1978 from one of Prince’s managers, who attended the party with Fingerett. Mchie wound up being one of the first disc jockeys to play the song.
Mchie said Fingerett had a light touch with performers, in part because he was an accomplished amateur guitarist.
“He could take somebody like Prince and bridge the potential communication gaps between a business and the artist,” Mchie said. “He knew music, both as a performer and a promoter.”
Programmers said Fingerett helped launch many artists when they were just starting out. At Cities 97.1, the list included country singer k.d. lang and jam band Widespread Panic.
“I’d have 10 promotion people coming in every week, and they’d each have a couple of records they wanted us to play,” Robinson said. “But I’d only have one or two [song] slots to fill in a week. So the relationships had a lot to deal with it, and the sound of the music.”
Fingerett’s ability to perform sophisticated card tricks made him a favorite at after-hours parties.
“A party was never a party until Steve would come and do his magic,” said Katie Deatrick Trimble, who said Fingerett helped her land her first major publicity job at EMI, a British record label. “Everybody knew Steve.”
A memorial service will be held after the first of the year, and details will be posted on CaringBridge.