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Don Covay

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Don Covay (Donald Randolph, March 24, 1938, Orangeburg, SC, USA) is an American rhythm & blues singer and songwriter, most active in the 1950s and 1960s, who received a Pioneer Award from the Rhythm and Blues Foundation in 1994.

His father a Baptist preacher died when Don was eight. 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.

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.

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