About The Rolling Stones’ song ‘Mercy Mercy’…
*Click for MORE ROLLING STONES SONGS 1962-PRESENT
But if you stay, baby/ I tell you what I’m gonna do/ I’m gonna work two jobs, seven days a week/ And bring my money home to you…
Written by: Covay/Miller
Recorded: Chess Studios, Chicago, USA, May 10-11 1965
*Data taken from Martin Elliott’s book THE ROLLING STONES COMPLETE RECORDING SESSIONS 1962-2012
“Mercy, Mercy” was written and originally recorded in 1964 by Don Covay, an American soul singer The Rolling Stones admired. Covay worked with Little Richard in the ’50s before forming Don Covay and the Goodtimers in 1964. He also wrote “Chain Of Fools” and “See Saw,” which were both hits for Aretha Franklin.
Early on, The Stones did a lot of cover songs, typically rocking out R&B tracks by American artists. For many US listeners, the first time they heard these songs was the Rolling Stones covers.
In this heartache tune, the singer is absolutely despondent and will do anything to keep his girl from leaving him. The melody is jaunty enough to take the edge off lyrics like, “I’m gonna make it to the nearest river, child, and jump overboard and drown.”
This was recorded at Chess Studios in Chicago and engineered by Ron Malo, who had worked with Bo Diddley, Sonny Boy Williamson and Chuck Berry, and engineered the first songs The Stones recorded in the US. He went on to work with other blues greats, including Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker.
“Mercy Mercy” got a rare live outing when The Rolling Stones performed it during their concert at the FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on July 3, 2019. “It’s a long time ago, so we’re going to try to remember it,” Mick Jagger told the audience before playing the song.
The previous time the band had played “Mercy Mercy” was at their Hyde Park show on July 6, 1969, days after the death of Brian Jones.
From the The Rolling Stones – All the Songs book:
The son of a preacher from South Carolina, Don Covay cut his teeth as a
singer with his family’s gospel group, the Cherry Keys. He then joined the
Rainbows, singing occasionally alongside Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart,
before becoming Little Richard’s chauffeur. The rock ’n’ roll pioneer is
thought to have encouraged him to try his hand as a songwriter, a successful
initiative that would give Chubby Checker, Solomon Burke, and Wilson
Pickett their route to the charts, notably with “I’m Gonna Cry (Cry Baby),”
which also provided Atlantic with its first hit. Songs by Ronald Dean
Miller, meanwhile, have been covered by many artists including Aretha
Franklin, Stevie Wonder, and Wilson Pickett.
Don Covay had his biggest hit, in the role of both writer and performer,
in 1964 with a song called “Mercy, Mercy.” The recording session, financed
by the disc jockey Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague (of the New York
radio station WWRL) and Herb Abramson, the co-founder of Atlantic, took
place in mid-May 1964 at the A-1 Recording Studio in New York with a
group called the Goodtimers (and a twenty-two-year-old guitarist named
Jimi Hendrix). “Mercy, Mercy” was released the following August under
the name Don Covay & the Goodtimers and climbed to number 1 on the
Cashbox R&B chart and number 35 on the Billboard pop chart.
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