Have Mercy Baby

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Not to be confused with Mercy, Mercy (Don Covay song).
"Have Mercy Baby"
Single by Billy Ward and the Dominoes
B-side "Deep Sea Blues"
Released April 1952
Recorded January 28, 1952
Label Federal
Writer(s) Billy Ward, Rose Marks
Billy Ward and the Dominoes singles chronology
"That's What You're Doing to Me"
"Have Mercy Baby"
"No Room"
"Have Mercy Baby"
Single by James Brown
from the album Papa's Got a Brand New Bag
B-side "Just Won't Do Right (I Stay in the Chapel Every Night)"
Released 1964 (1964)
Format 7"
Genre Rhythm and blues
Length 2:14
Label King
Producer(s) James Brown
James Brown charting singles chronology
"Out of Sight"
"Have Mercy Baby"
"Papa's Got a Brand New Bag Part I"

"Have Mercy Baby" is a popular rhythm and blues song, written by Billy Ward and Rose Marks, recorded by The Dominoes in Cincinnati, produced by Ralph Bass, and released by Federal Records in 1952. It was Number One on the R&B Charts for ten non consecutive weeks.[1] Influenced by the group's lead singer Clyde McPhatter, its importance lies in that it was the first popular R&B recording highlighting passionate black gospel music features.[2]


Clyde McPhatter's roots were in the black church. The song is essentially the gospel song "Have Mercy, Jesus" sung in the call-and-response style of a gospel quartet, although it is in the straight twelve-bar blues form that gospel singers disdained. In the first chorus McPhatter simply follows the melody, but subsequently he freely improvises in the gospel style with short but spectacular melismas, stringing out phrases to overlap the backup singers responses, interjecting screams and yeahs, shouting a gospel funk. The backup band lays down the rhythm and provides the expected tenor sax solo.[2][3]


The Dominoes' version of "Have Mercy Baby" was the definitive rhythm and gospel record.[3] Other significant recordings of the song were made by The Bobbettes (1960), The Rivingtons (1962) and by James Brown (1964), whose version charted #92 Pop.[2][4]


  1. ^ Whitburn, Joel (2004). Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles: 1942-2004. Record Research. p. 168. 
  2. ^ a b c Jim Dawson, & Steve Propes (1992). What Was the First Rock'n'Roll Record. Boston & London: Faber & Faber. pp. 105–108. ISBN 0-571-12939-0. 
  3. ^ a b Holly George-Warren &, Anthony Decurtis (Eds.) (1976). The RollingStone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll (3rd ed.). New York: Random House. pp. 18–20. ISBN 0-679-73728-6. 
  4. ^ White, Cliff (1991). "Discography". In Star Time (pp. 54–59) [CD booklet]. New York: PolyGram Records.
Preceded by
"5-10-15 Hours" by Ruth Brown
Billboard Best Selling Retail Rhythm & Blues Records number-one single (The Dominoes version)
June 14, 1952
Succeeded by
"Goin' Home" by Fats Domino
"Lawdy Miss Clawdy" by Lloyd Price and His Orchestra