DEAR JERRY: An item sold in an eBay auction a few weeks ago has stirred up a bit of a controversy, which no one seems to be able to settle. Perhaps you can.
A copy of Don Covay's 1965 album, “Mercy!” (Atlantic 8104) went for $250, which is about 10 times its usual selling price.
My guess is the higher price is due to the description, which states “featuring Jimi Hendrix on lead guitar on the title track.”
I thought I knew about all of Jimi's guest appearances and session work on other people's recordings, but I never heard of his playing on “Mercy, Mercy.”
Several other Hendrix collectors I consulted drew a blank when I asked about this mystery. Not one can confirm the story, but they also can't deny it. They simply don't know.
Though this session was a couple of years before he became famous, I am quite familiar with his style of playing, and I don't hear anything on “Mercy!” that sounds like Jimi.
Since “Mercy, Mercy” is included in the comprehensive boxed set, “Atlantic Rhythm & Blues (1947-1974),” I recalled the informative booklet that came with this eight-disc package, and dug it out.
It was shocking to see even Atlantic provides no details about anyone involved in that session. They don't even identify any members of Covay's band, the Goodtimers.
Wouldn't an early studio session by someone who later became Rock's all-time greatest guitarist be worth mentioning unless he is not involved.
My next and last stop was a Dutch site that has the world's most complete Hendrix discography and sessionography, and they make no mention whatsoever about any “Mercy, Mercy” connection.
Unless you can shed some light on this, I'll assume Jimi has nothing to do with this track.
There also might be one very unhappy eBay buyer.
Lester Cochran, Milwaukee
DEAR LESTER: Settle it we will, but not without a discussion with Don Covay.
Turns out there is only one erroneous word in the seller's description, the magnitude of which is between the buyer and seller.
The misleading word is “lead.”
That soulful lead guitarist on “Mercy, Mercy” is Ronnie Miller, a Goodtimer who is also credited by BMI as co-writer, with Covay, of the song.
I have, on your behalf, recently spoken with Don Covay, his daughter Wendy Covay, and Ace Hall, leader of Don's Goodtimers band.
Don explains it this way:
“The lead guitar player is definitely Ronnie Miller. As for Jimi Hendrix, he was with us on that session, but only as a fill-in guitarist.”
Then Wendy put me in touch with Ace Hall, who confirmed what Don said, and added a clarification and a bit more to the story:
“What Don means by a “fill-in” player is really a secondary guitarist, one who fills in a bit here and there such as perhaps between verses when the lead is playing something else.
“Around the same time as “Mercy, Mercy,” Jimi and I wrote a song together that Little Richard recorded titled “I Don't Know What You Got (But It's Got Me)” [Vee-Jay 698]. On that track, Jimi does play lead guitar.
“Jimi was also an on-again, off-again member of the Goodtimers. He would occasionally tour with us in '65, meaning many people got to see him years before anyone knew his name.
“Besides myself and Ronnie Miller, the other full-time Goodtimers were George Braggs and Harry Jensen.”
IZ ZAT SO? Before the summer of 1967, and before billing his act as the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Jimi did session guitar work for a couple others besides Don Covay and Little Richard.
His first recordings are believed to be from a late 1963 or early '64 session with Rosa Lee Brooks. Their two tracks, “My Diary” and “Utee,” came out on a Revis single (R-1013).
As his recording debut, this disc can rarely be found for under $700.
Also in 1964, Jimi played on two separate Isley Brothers releases: “Testify” (Parts 1 and 2) (T-Neck 501), and “The Last Girl” backed with “Looking for Love” (Atlantic 2263).
These two are much more affordable, either being in the $25 range.