The Mercymen — Ack!

I was the whitest and worst soul singer in the world with the best band in Lexington; the Mercymen. My muddled feelings of embarrassment and pride over that fact muddle me to this day.

The good (and young)version

It was the late 60’s and Lexington had a bunch of bands. They were all young and they all worked with regularity and enthusiasm…and occasionally, well. There was the Love Machine, the Torqués, the Mag 7, Harold Sherman’s group whose name evades me (they did great covers of The Kinks), the Exiles (they were plural then), and the Mercymen.

I claim at least temporary preeminence for the Mercymen because we won a summer-long, city-wide “Battle of the Bands”.

In the late 60’s several city parks had weekly outdoor dances during the summer. In the winter, every high school, and some junior high schools had sock hops on Friday nights after the football games. There were also gigs at private parties at horse farms and country clubs, and night clubs willing to forget to check the ages of the members of the band.

For a couple of years the gigs were copious, the money was great (especially considering we all lived at home, attended high school during the day, and had no expenses). Since I was also driving my dad’s refurbished 1959 sky-blue Cadillac to many of the jobs in those days, life was pretty damn good.

Yes, life was good, the band was good, the money was good…

…I was not.

Oh, if you needed someone to intone the Mag 7’s opening to “Stubborn Kind of Fellow”; “Here’s the one you’ve been waiting for all-l-l-l-l night long…”

Or, if you needed someone to mush-mouth the non-existent lyrics to “Louie, Louie” and leer…

Or, if you needed someone to string out “Hey Jude” for 20 minutes so the band could catch a break…

Or, if you needed someone to plumb the psycho-sociological depths of Otis Redding’s “Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa” (I think I got the right number of Fa’s in there)…

I was your guy.

But singing?

Well…after the first half of the first song, I was shrieking and growling in a vocal range of about three notes.

We all started out young. The band got older and better. I got older.

The Mercymen were a group of young fellows that were as close to gentlemen as teen-aged rock band members could be. They endured my tenure as vocalist with glazed eyes and slumped shoulders, but encouraging words. The protests when I had to leave the band were unanimous, polite, and heavily laced with palpable relief.

About three months later, I saw the group at a big multi-band back-to-school outdoor dance at Lexington Mall. They had a new singer. They had gotten a whole lot better.

How dare they!

The good (and mature) version

I see the Mercymen have reassembled all these years later. Some of the original members are still in the band. I see them playing with glee and as I watch, I see their young selves on drums and guitars.

They still sound pretty good.

How dare they!!!

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