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DON COVAY & THE GOODTIMERS

Who Wrote "Mercy, MErcy"?
The composer credits for "Mercy, Mercy" (with Jimi Hendrix on guitar, see the "Recordings" -page) have always been open for discussion. Some copies of the Rosemart "Mercy, Mercy" 45 credit "Covay - Ott", others "Covay - Miller", and the Mercy! -lp credits "Don Covay & Horace Ott".

The correct composer credit is Don Covay & Ronald Miller. Even though there doesn`t seem to be one single source to confirm this "from the horse`s mouth", the evidence for this is quite clear.

Let`s start with the original copyright registration from the Library of Congress Copyright Office January - June 1964 -catalog: 1

MERCY! MERCY! MERCY! w & m Don Covay
& Ronald Miller. © Don Covay &
Ronald Miller; 15Jun64; EU830294.

This seems rather clear cut (apart from the later change of song title) - except that the actual 1964 single releases of "Mercy, Mercy" sometimes credit Ott and at other times Miller.

A logical explanation would be that the original copies of the Rosemart 45 used "Covay - Miller" and this, for one reason or another, was later replaced with the Don Covay & Horace Ott -credit. This is however NOT the case. An 8 August 1964 Cash Box review of the single lists the composers as "Covay, Ott". So this isn`t something that was changed only later, the confusion started right at the time of release in August 1964.

Also, the same pressing of the single has different credits. I have two copies of Rosemart 801 pressed with the same plates, the matrix numbers are scratched on both and they are identical. The labels are (almost) identical as well, check the positions of the letters "E" and "R" in the picture below.

The only difference are the credits, one lists Ott, the other lists Miller. So even discs from the same pressing plant / print run have different credits which indicates this wasn`t a case of some pressing plants being sent different label credits than others.

mercy mercy credits
THE TWO CREDITS VARIATIONS ON ROSEMART 801

Later when the track was included on the Mercy! -lp Ronald Miller was removed from the "Mercy, Mercy" -credit and replaced with Horace Ott. I haven`t seen any versions of the lp crediting Miller for "Mercy, Mercy" (though that doesn`t necessarily mean that none exist...)


Ronnie And The Manhattans
The crucial piece of evidence for Ronald Miller`s authorship comes from a bit of a surprise source.

Ronnie And The Manhattans (no relation to the well known Manhattans) released the 45 "Come On Back / Long Time No See" (Enjoy Records 2008) circa February / March1964 (the single was reviewed in the 21 March 1964 issue of Cash Box). 2

Why is this of interest to us? Because "Come On Back" is a clear blueprint for "Mercy, Mercy". Don Covay seems to have written new lyrics and vocal melody lines on top of Ronnie`s aka Ronald Miller`s music but the chord changes, breaks & arrangement of "Come On Back" are almost exactly the same. Assuming that the 18 May 1964 recording date for "Mercy, Mercy" is correct (see "The Studio") then "Come On Back" was released more than two months before "Mercy, Mercy" was even recorded, and in any case released on record at least 5 months earlier than "Mercy, Mercy" was.

You can listen to "Come On Back" on YouTube:



"Come On Back" was composed by "R. Miller, L. Harper , B.Robinson". According to BMI the composers are Ronnie Miller and LaCharles Harper. "BOBBY ROBINSON SWEET SOUL MUSIC" is listed as the publisher .

"Come On Back" also turns up when searching for "Ronald Alonzo Miller", as does "Mercy, Mercy", so Ronald Alonzo Miller, Ronald Miller and Ronnie Miller are all one and the same person.

Ronald Miller may have acted as band a leader and / or producer on the two Rosemart singles as both "Mercy, Mercy" and "Take This Hurt Off Me" were originally copyrighted with Ronald Miller as co-writer.

A lot of the work for the remaining tracks on the Mercy! -lp was probably done with Horace Ott which might have something to do with the changes in writing credits. Apart from "Mercy Mercy" credits for other songs were swapped around as well for the lp, maybe as a way to even out Ronald Miller`s and Horace Ott`s salaries / shares of the profit  from the album?

This, to me, seems like the most logical explanation for the changing credits. And the fact that there, as far as I know, haven`t been any legal disputes about who the actual co-writer of "Mercy, Mercy" was suggests that the change in the credits was made in good understanding with those involved.




SOURCES

1 Catalog of Copyright Entries 1964 Music Jan-June 3D Ser Vol 18 Pt 5 https://archive.org/details/catalogofcopy19643185lib
2 Cash Box 21 March 1964 https://archive.org/details/cashbox25unse_26