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DON COVAY & THE GOODTIMERS

THE STUDIO
It has been widely accepted that all of the 1964 Don Covay recordings were done at A-1 Sound Studios Inc. in New York City. It however now looks like this very likely was not the studio used for recording "Mercy, Mercy", originally released as the A-side of a Rosemart 45.

Engineer Steve Hoffman who remastered tracks for the 1994 Covay compilation cd "The Definitive Don Covay" (Razor & Tie RE 2053) and thus had access to the master tapes had this to say about "Mercy, Mercy" on his message board. 1

Steve Hoffman:
"An SH Forum member asked about the recording of MERCY, MERCY.

It was recorded at A-1 Sound on 56th Street in NYC. The studio was owned by Herb Abramson one of the founders of Atlantic and the WWRL dj "Magnificent Montague". The record came out on ROSEMART, named after Montague's wife, Rose and his son Martin.

They used a three-track Presto tape deck (urggh!)

The master number of Mercy, Mercy was 7879 and the MERCY! LP was cut on12/10/64 and sent to MGM's plant for manufacturing.

That pitiful little info about the song is all I know. Oh, and some unknown guitar player James Hendricks (Hendrix) played lead guitar on it."

It would, however, seem that "Mercy, Mercy" wasn`t actually recorded at A-1. The following ad for Talentmasters Recording Studio in New York City was published in Cash Box issue 30 January 1965. It very clearly (though with questionable spelling) states that the track "Mercy, Mercy" had been recorded at Talentmasters:

Talentmasters Recording Studio ad
CASH BOX 30 JANUARY 1965

So, was "Mercy, Mercy" recorded at A-1 Sound Studios Inc. or at Talentmasters Recording Studio? Let`s examine the evidence:

- Steve Hoffman stated that "Mercy, Mercy" was recorded on a Presto 3 track machine at A-1 Sound Studios Inc. Chris Moise sent the Talentmasters ad to Hoffman and asked for his comments about the ad and for information on the master tape logs. 2 Hoffman very much doubted that the recordings would have been done at Talentmasters but did say this about the master tapes:

"The tapes I used were Atlantic masters, plain brown boxes with only a matrix number on the side."

So nothing on the tape boxes would seem to indicate that they would have been recorded at A-1.

- the 2nd Rosemart 45, "Take This Hurt Off Me", and the rest of the tracks that make up the "Mercy!" -lp were recorded over multiple sessions in October 1964. It is entirely possible, and probably even likely, that those tracks were recorded at A-1 as "Mercy, Mercy" had been a big hit and the lp came out on Atco.

- the Talentmasters ad in the Cash Box 30 January 1965 issue lists "some of the latest hits recorded at Talentmasters", and under this heading we can find "Merci Merci" [sic] by "Don Covey" [sic]. The "Mercy, Mercy" 45 was released in August 1964 and the Mercy! -lp in January 1965 so this ad was published right at the time when a Don Covay lp that included the hit single and which was named after it came out. Cash Box was a magazine for industry professionals, it would have been a very bad business decision (not to mention stupid) for the studio to make false claims about a current hit record in such a publication. Atlantic would have been furious if Talentmasters had claimed their master recording to actually have been done by Talentmasters, this is a risk that a small independent studio probably would not take.

- according to Steve Hoffman the master tape was recorded on a 3 track Presto deck at A-1 Sound Studios Inc. A-1 ads published in Cash Box magazine issues 10 August 1963 and 14 August 1965 (thus before and after the Don Covay sessions) both state that the studio does 3 track Selsync recordings. The ads specifically mention "Selsync", Sel-Sync was an Ampex trademark, if we take the ad literally it would mean the studio was using an Ampex deck. However A-1 could also just have used "selsync" as a term indicating multitrack recording. In any case, both the Talentmasters and the A-1 ads state that the studios were equipped to do 3 track recording so either studio could have produced a 3 track master tape.

A1 ad 1963
CASH BOX 10 AUGUST 1963

A1 ad 1964
CASH BOX 14 AUGUST 1965


- Rosemart had a distribution deal with Atlantic, "Mercy, Mercy" was not originally put out by the label. It is quite possible that Rosemart may only have supplied Atlantic with the master tapes after they had been independently recorded.

WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED?
I can think of four possible explanations:

- the take of "Mercy, Mercy" released on the Rosemart 45 was not the take that was recorded at Talentmasters Recording Studio. I find this highly unlikely. Talentmasters would have checked that the hit version was actually their recording before making such claims. Again, it would have been a terribly bad business decision for a studio to take credit for another studio`s recording, the truth would have come out.

- the version of "Mercy, Mercy" recorded at Talentmasters could have been an earlier (demo) version but I find this unlikely as the ad explicitly says "latest hits recorded at".

- the master could have been recorded at BOTH studios. Theoretically since both studios had 3 track recording facilities the master could have been worked on in both studios. However, I do not know if that was technically possible, and I also don`t think it is a likely scenario. "Mercy, Mercy" isn`t "Bohemian Rhapsody" and would most likely have been finished in one session. Or if further work was required it would have been done at the same studio.

- most likely scenario in my opinion: "Mercy, Mercy" was actually recorded at Talentmasters Recording Studio and the finished master was licensed by Atlantic. This was a common practice for Atlantic and other labels, in addition to their own recordings master tapes were licensed or bought from other companies and artists. Apparently the Don Covay multitracks do not exist anymore, what Atlantic has are thus the finished mono and stereo masters (hence the boxes with only matrix numbers) and these could have been mixed down anywhere and then added to the Atlantic tape library. This also makes one wonder, if the multitracks are gone how can anyone be certain of where they were recorded?

Unfortunately a lot of this is of course speculation but I believe that the evidence points strongly to Talentmasters Recording Studio being the true recording location for "Mercy, Mercy". In the Cash Box ad we have a contemporary print source stating that Talentmasters was the recording location and I am not aware of any first hand evidence disproving this. Until contemporary print or recorded sources proving that "Mercy, Mercy" was recorded at A-1 pop up I`ll list the recording location as Talentmasters.


THE RECORDING DATES
If the A-1 recording location is incorrect that also casts some doubt on the recording dates. I believe that the dates were first published in the book "Atlantic Records A Discography" by Michel Ruppli so they must be based on something in the archives but unfortunately the book does not list exact sources used for every entry in the book. So for now I´ll keep using the dates published in the book but with a question mark attached.

 
SOURCES
1 posting on the stevehoffman.tv message board http://www.stevehoffman.tv/forums/showthread.php?t=39554&highlight=don+covay:
2 email from Chris Moise 13 June 2018