Don Covay

Don Covay is an R&B singer and songwriter with a smooth voice who was quite active in the 50's, 60's and 70's. He put a number of records on the R&B and pop charts in those years, two of which managed to reach the pop top forty.

Born Donald Randolph in Orangeburg, South Carolina in 1938, he moved to Washington, D.C. with his family as a child. He sang in a family gospel group known as the Cherry Kays and later, in 1955, he joined a mainstream group known as the Rainbows. Some reports list Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart as members of the Rainbows at one time or another. Adopting the name Don Covay, his career progressed to the point where he served as the opening act in a show that featured established star Little Richard. Covay recorded his first single Bip Bop Bip under the name Pretty Boy with the aid of Little Richard, for whom Covay also served as a chauffeur. Bip Bop Bip was released on the Atlantic label in 1957.

Covay proceeded to record for many different record labels. In 1960 he formed a group and named it the Goodtimers, and it was this group that came up with his first hit, a song written by Covay titled Pony Time, which went to number 60 in 1961. That same year Chubby Checker's recording of Pony Time was a solid number one hit. Recording under his own name, Covay had some minor hits on labels such as Cameo and Rosemart. Recording as Don Covay and the Goodtimers, he finally had his first top forty pop hit Mercy, Mercy for Rosemont in 1964, before that label was acquired by Atlantic. Performing on the guitar on Mercy, Mercy was 21-year-old Jimi Hendrix. From 1964 to 1970 Covay managed to put four hits on the R&B chart, one of which was a song that Don co-wrote with Steve Cropper titled See Saw -- later a hit for Aretha Franklin. Aretha turned another song written by Covay, Chain Of Fools, into a top ten hit in 1967-68. Other songs written by this fine composer that are associated with other artists who recorded them include Solomon Burke's I'm Hanging Up My Heart For You, Jerry Butler's You Can Run (But You Can't Hide), and Gladys Knight & The Pips' Letter Full of Tears.

In 1973 Don recorded his biggest hit, this time on the Mercury label. I Was Checkin' Out She Was Checkin' In went to number 29 pop. It was the second of his two pop top forty hits. His last charted song came in 1974 with It's Better To Have (And Don't Need).

Don suffered a stroke in 1992 from which he recovered, and he released an album as late as the year 2000. Many have heard his songs but remain unaware of the contributions he has made to music. His most notable song from the 1960's, and the only one he recorded that made the top forty in pop that decade, is Mercy, Mercy.

Most Recent Update: July 1, 2008

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