SONG #72

  • Doug Koempel on keys, bass and synth & drum programming.
  • Yamaha NP-V80 controller keyboard + Sonar 3.1 recording software.
  • M-Audio Key Rig plug-in used: drums, trombone, acoustic bass & brass section (all from GM set.)
  • Wurlitzer electric piano (from M-Audio Key Rig dedicated pianos set)
  • recorded on December 17, 2016 at Bird-On-Fire Recording Studio / West Union, Iowa

Doug Koempel © 2016

I FELL IN LOVE WITH "MERCY, MERCY, MERCY" at age 15 and have wanted to record it for years. Fast forward a half century to a blustery, December afternoon in 2016. I was essentially "snowed in" after canceling all our weekend gigs due to some nasty, subzero weather. I'd suddenly found myself with some free time on my hands and was all primed to play some music - what a perfect opportunity to finally record my version of this iconic instrumental!

"Mercy Mercy Mercy" was written by Joe Zawinul (of the jazz fusion band Weather Report), and it was first made popular by saxophonist Cannonball Adderley back in 1966. That next year in 1967 The Buckinghams added some words and had a hit with it - reaching #5 on the Billboard charts. However my favorite version - by far - is still Cannonball Adderley's soulful recording.

Back in high school a group of us band students decided to start a combo which we called The Obmoc (guess where we got that name!) The lineup consisted of Linda (Pleggenkuhle) Fritz on cornet, the late Hal Weitenhagen on acoustic bass, the late Marsha Mork on reeds, Clark Whitford on trombone, Doris Schultz on drums and me on the piano. And one of the first numbers we'd worked up was "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy."

We met some mild resistance from our band director who seemed less than enthusiastic about our combo's musical choices. But he eventually gave us the green light and grudgingly allotted us a weekly, early-morning rehearsal schedule in the band room.

With no band director to answer to, we kind of did our own thing - leaning towards a pop repertoire. The only advice I recall that he'd offered occurred one morning while we were in fact rehearsing "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy." He happened to be walking through the band room just as our affable bassist, Hal, slapped his upright bass and twirled it around. Without missing a beat our director sternly admonished: "That is not an accepted technique on the string bass!"

Mind you Hal's maneuver wasn't exactly a Pete Townshend moment; but I guess it was a tad radical for our high school band instructor back in 1966.

Nevertheless, our little ensemble started sounding pretty good; and the band director eventually allowed the combo to perform a couple selections at each of our band concerts - However he would publicly disavow any connection to and/or endorsement of the combo prior to each performance.

"Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" was always our showcase number; and yes, Hal would unfailingly slap and spin the upright bass much to the delight of the audience!

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