Google+ Badge BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY
Wednesday, 19 February 2014
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY : AFRICAN AMERICAN " DON COVAY " HIS CAREER SPANNED VIRTUALLY THE ENTIRETY OF THE R&B SPECTRUM FROM ELECTRIFYING ROCK & ROLL OF HIS EARLIEST RECORDS TO GRITTY, SWAGGERING DEEP SOUL : GOES INTO THE " HALL OF BLACK GENIUS "
BLACK SOCIAL HISTORY The career of singer Don Covay spanned virtually the entirety of the R&B spectrum, from the electrifying rock & roll of his earliest records to the gritty, swaggering deep soul of his most enduring efforts -- the scope and diversity of his catalog no doubt contributed to his failure to enjoy consistent commercial success, however, and the general public is probably better acquainted with his songs than with his own renditions of them. Born Donald Randolph in Orange burg, South Carolina on March 24, 1938, Covay was the son of a Baptist preacher who died when his son was eight. The family soon after relocated to Washington, D.C., where he and his siblings formed a gospel group dubbed the Cherry Keys; while in middle school, however, some of Covay's classmates convinced him to make the leap to secular music, and in 1953 he joined the Rainbows, a local doo wop group that previously enjoyed a national smash with "Mary Lee." By the time Covay joined the Rainbows the original lineup had long since splintered, and his recorded debut with the group, 1956's "Shirley," was not a hit. He stuck around for one more single, "Minnie," before exiting; contrary to legend, this iteration of the Rainbows did not include either a young Marvin Gaye or Billy Stewart, although both fledgling singers did occasionally fill in for absent personnel during live performances.
In the meantime Covay landed a job chauffeuring his idol, Little Richard, doing double-duty as the hitmaker's opening act; Richard soon produced Covay's 1957 solo debut "Bip Bip Bip," a blistering single credited to Pretty Boy. Issued on Atlantic, the record went nowhere and he next landed at Sue. During the remaining years of the decade Covay released four more singles for as many labels -- "Switching' in the Kitchen" on Big, "Standing in the Doorway" on Blaze, "If You See Mary Lee" on Firefly and "'Cause I Love You" on Big Top -- none of them hits. He then signed to major label Columbia, issuing three 1961 singles -- "Shake Wid the Snake," the Ben E. King-soundalike "See About Me," and "Now That I Need You" -- that showcased the vast eclecticism of his approach, from retro-doo wop to uptown soul to smoldering R&B. As his recording career refused to catch fire, Covay increasingly focused on songwriting, partnering with fellow Rainbows alum John Berry to pen a dance tune called "Pony Time" -- recorded by Covay for the Arnold label with backing band the Goodtimers, the resulting 1961 single proved to be his first chart hit, inching to the number 60 spot on the Billboard pop countdown. Equally significant, Chubby Checker soon after recorded his own version, topping the pop and R&B charts in early 1962.
In the meantime, Covay squeaked back into the Hot 100 with "Take This Hurt Off Me," graduating to Atlantic on a full-time basis with 1965's "The Boomerang." The latter didn't chart at all, but the move to Atlantic gave him access to collaborators including Memphis legends like keyboardist Booker T. Jones and guitarist Steve Cropper, and his music achieved an even more powerfully soulful edge. "Please Do Something" fell just shy of the R&B Top 20, and its follow-up "See Saw" proved Covay's biggest hit to date, reaching the R&B Top Five and coming in at number 44 on the pop charts. By now the likes of Etta James ("Watch Dog" and "I'm Gonna Take What He's Got") and Otis Redding("Think About It" and "Demonstration") were recording his material, but he could never quite maintain the same momentum as a performer, in 1966 releasing three brilliant Atlantic singles -- "Sookie Sookie," "You Put Something on Me" and "Somebody's Got to Love You" -- that all failed to chart. The relatively minor "Shingaling '67" at least made it as far as the R&B Top 50, but both "'40 Days-40 Nights"" and "You've Got Me on Your Critical List" sank without a trace. And even though Aretha Franklin scored one of her biggest and most enduring hits in 1968 with "Chain of Fools," written by Covay some 15 years earlier, his own recording that same year went nowhere.