Sunday, January 13, 2008

Have Mercy

A few months ago, I bought this record on eBay. I purchased it because it was cheap and on the Ace record label, and 90% of those records are great, including the one for which this blog is named. I had no idea who Mercy Baby was and neither did the guy who sold it to me. He listed it as Mercy Dee in parentheses and I didn't know much about him either, except as a passing name when browsing for records.

After I won the auction, I did a little web research on Mercy Dee, whose record I thought I had just bought and made a startling discovery. Years ago, my friend, roommate, and cohort from art school Bruce Silcox, with whom I spent many hours listening to and playing music with gave me a cassette tape he made (at the library I think) with no track listing of a Texas Blues compilation labeled only "'dis be it blues." He excitedly played me an hysterically funny song called "Eighth Wonder of the World" in which a guy runs through a list of bad strategies for testing his woman's love, I've had this tape for over 20 years and had no idea who it was. More than once, I spent a considerable amount of time fishing around the web and trying to figure it out to no avail.

So, while looking at track listings of Mercy Dee records on Amazon to find out what the record I just bought sounded like - that wasn't Mercy Dee after all - I came across "Eighth Wonder of the World," and listened to a sound sample to find out what I'd been trying to figure out for all these years.

Below, we have the record I bought, which is fantastic by the way, featuring Frankie Lee Sims on guitar backing up Mercy Baby (AKA Jimmy Mullins). Mullins, like Mercy Dee Walton is a Texas blues piano player. On the A-side "Silly Dilly Woman," I'm not sure, but I think he refers to his woman as a "hole" or maybe it's the more common "ho." You tell me - I'm not sure. Either way, in my experience, this has proven to be as ineffective as the strategies illustrated in Mercy Dee's composition. Rhythmically it bears some resemblance to Rosco Gordon's shuffling proto-calypso rock. Also check out the way the drummer throws the accents during the saxophone solo. Frankie Lee cuts loose on the b-side.

Also, we get Mercy Dee doing "Eight Wonder" and his most famous composition, "One Room Country Shack," as well as a cover of it by Mose Allison, who was a fan of Mercy Dee and included it on his first record Back Country Suite.

Additionally a song that uses mercy as an exclamation of love, and a pair of songs begging for mercy in love and in life.


"Silly Dilly Woman" mp3
by Mercy Baby, 1957.
out of print

"Mercy's Blues" mp3
by Mercy Baby, 1957
out of print



"One Room Country Shack" mp3
by Mercy Dee Walton, 1953.
available on Jook Joint Blues: That's What They Want

"One Room Country Shack" mp3
by Mose Allison, 1957.
available on Back Country Suite

"Eighth Wonder of The World" mp3
by Mercy Dee Walton, 1961.
available on Troublesome Mind


"Mercy, Mercy" mp3
by Don Covay, 1964.
available on Mercy!/See-Saw

"Mercy, Mercy" mp3
by The Rolling Stones, 1965.
available on Out Of Our Heads

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" mp3
by Larry Williams and Johnny "Guitar" Watson, 1967.
available on The Best of the Okeh Years

"Love and Mercy" mp3
by Brian Wilson, 1995.
available on I Just Wasn't Made for These Times

top photograph: Mercy, Rivington Street, 1985. © Ted Barron


dave said...

Very nice post. Thanks.

Coffee Messiah said...

It's surprise's like this that still make collecting quite fun!


Anonymous said...

I think we've had the "I don't much care for the Stones" conversation -- but I have to add that Out Of Our Heads is one of my all-time faves. The bass on Mercy, Mercy is ridiculous huge, sludge-like, foreboding...

Anonymous said...

above is me (JSG) btw.

Ted Barron said...

"I don't much care for the Stones"

jay, those words are nearly blasphemous to me, but as my grandmother used to say "that's why there's chocolate and vanilla."

seriously though, it's not too late to look into that and reconsider, since your description of the bass on "mercy mercy" applies to most of what is great in their catalog.

coincidentally, and i forgot to mention it, that's jimi hendrix playing on the don covay version, and i've always contested that keith's rhythm/lead approach was greatly influenced by whomever the guitar player is on the early don covay records, hendrix or not.

alright, that's my 2 cents worth.

Anonymous said...

Not too draw this OT thing too far out, but it's a Mick thing. The persona he invented (+ the breathy vocal ticks) for Under My Thumb stuck and I like his sissy-faux Mississippi early vibe much better.

I dig the hits, though.



The DoorKeeper said...

For a moment there I thought you were going to post Roy Orbison ("Mer-say")

Great post Ted. thank you.