Don Covay

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Don Covay
Birth name Donald Randolph
Born (1938-03-24) 24 March 1938 (age 76)
Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States
Genres R&B, Rock and Roll,
Soul, Blues
Occupation(s) Vocalist, Songwriter
Instruments vocals
Labels Atlantic
Associated acts The Rainbows, Joe Sunseri, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, Aretha Franklin

Don Covay (born Donald Randolph, 24 March 1938, Orangeburg, South Carolina, United States) is an American R&B/rock and roll/soul music singer and songwriter most active in the 1950s and 1960s, who received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994.


Early career[edit]

His father was a Baptist preacher who died when Don was eight.[1] Covay resettled in Washington D.C. during the early 1950s and initially sang in the Cherry Keys, his family's gospel quartet. He crossed over to secular music with the Rainbows, a formative group which also included Marvin Gaye and Billy Stewart. Covay's solo career began in 1957 as part of the Little Richard Revue.

Career achievements[edit]

A single "Bip Bop Bip" was released on Atlantic and produced by Little Richard, on which Covay was billed as "Pretty Boy". It also featured his backing band the Upsetters. Over the next few years Covay drifted from label to label, but a further dance-oriented track called "Popeye Waddle" was a hit in 1962. He also wrote and recorded "Pony Time" which later became a US #1 single for Chubby Checker. Covay meanwhile honed his songwriting skills by penning a hit for Solomon Burke, "I'm Hanging Up My Heart for You", while Gladys Knight & The Pips reached the US Top 20 with "Letter Full of Tears".

Covay's singing career continued to falter until 1964, when he signed to the Rosemart label. His debut single there with the Goodtimers, "Mercy Mercy" (accompanied by a young Jimi Hendrix on guitar), established his earthy bluesy style. Atlantic bought his contract, but, while several R&B hits followed, it was a year before Covay returned to the pop chart. "See Saw", co-written with Steve Cropper and recorded at Stax, paved the way for more hits.

Don Covay's songs still remain successful: Aretha Franklin won a Grammy for her performance of his composition "Chain of Fools". He is a legendary composer and singer, best known for his R&B classic compositions "Mercy Mercy", "Chain of Fools", "See Saw" and "Sookie Sookie". Covay had success as a singer as Don Covay and The Goodtimers, and his compositions have been recorded by such varied artists as Steppenwolf, Bobby Womack, The Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett, The Small Faces, Grant Green, Peter Wolf and many more.


In the mid 1990s Don Covay had a debilitating stroke, but he has recovered well. He is still active. His most recent album Adlib, released in 2000 on the Cannonball label, was his first album in 23 years.



  • Mercy! (1965)
  • See Saw (1966)
  • The House of Blue Lights (1969)
  • Country Funk (1970)
  • Different Strokes for Different Folks (1971)
  • Super Dude (1973)
  • Hot Blood (1975)
  • Travelin' in Heavy Traffic (1976)
  • Funky Yo Yo (1977)
  • Adlib (2000)
  • Super Bad (2009)

Singles (Partial list)

  • "Pony Time" (1961) - #60 Billboard Hot 100
  • "Mercy Mercy" (1964) #35 Billboard Hot 100
  • "See Saw" (1965) #44 Billboard Hot 100 (#5 Billboard Top R&B)
  • "I Was Checkin' Out/She Was Checkin' In" (1973) #29 Billboard Hot 100 (#6 Billboard Top R&B)
  • "It's Better To Have (And Don't Need)" (1974) #63 Billboard Hot 100 (#21 Billboard Top R&B), #29 UK Singles Chart[2]
  • "Rumble in the Jungle" (1975)


  1. ^ Rhythm and Blues Foundation Website
  2. ^ Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 123. ISBN 1-904994-10-5. 

External links[edit]