Today is the second anniversary of Joe’s passing. To honor Joe on this day, I chose a clip from an interview I did with him, in which he describes the making of “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy.” (Apologies for the sound quality, but it was recorded on a cheap digital audio recorder.) The transcription is below the YouTube clip. Joe lives on through his music.
“I played ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ on the acoustic piano all the time. I used to play the Wurlitzer when I toured in Europe in the early fifties, in the US camps. They had a lot of those instruments at the camps, for the soldiers. Little Wurlitzers. I loved to play them. And I played them on those shows often times, for G.I.’s and all that, you know? I always loved that sound. And then when I worked with Dinah, we toured a lot with Ray Charles, and Ray Charles had one. And he did a couple of the songs, you know, ‘What’d I Say,’ with a Wurlitzer. And sometimes when the pianos were not in good shape–in the South it happened quite often– Dinah asked Ray to let me play on it. And I always liked that sound from way back, and I really know how to play it.
“So, when I came up with the tune ‘Mercy, Mercy, Mercy’ I played it on acoustic piano. But then when we came to record it here in Los Angeles at the Capital building on Vine and Sunset, I said to Cannon on the way to the studio, I said, Cannon, if I find this instrument I’m looking for, I will play that tune on this instrument. I guarantee we have a smash hit. And I go to Studio A and I look around, and in one corner, man, I see it. And I opened it up, man, and it was in great, great tune. I had ‘em take it out on the bandstand, and we rehearsed it one time through, and I knew it was all over. It was a live recording. We always recorded live, with an audience in the studio. We had about 80 or 90 people out there, you know, catering, a lot of friends. History, man.”