Mercy Dee

With his barrelhouse-style piano playing, deeply expressive vocals, and well-crafted lyrics, Mercy Dee (born Mercy Walton) made his presence felt in the blues joints of California's San Joaquin Valley during the 1950s. His best known tune, "One Room Country Shack," has gone on to become a blues classic, covered by such artists as Mose Allison, Eddie Shaw, and Roy Buchanan. Raised in rural Texas, Dee moved to Northern California in 1938. Recording for a variety of independent labels in 1949 and early '50s, including Imperial, Specialty, and Flair, he had first inkling of success with his debut single, "Lonesome Cabin Blues," which became a minor hit in 1949. "One Room Country Shack" followed four years later. With the advent of rock & roll in the mid-'50s, the market for Dee's roots-oriented electric blues was diminished. Although he recorded a tune, "Come Back Maybelline," which supplied a satirical answer to Chuck Berry's "Maybelline" in 1955, and gained a boost when Mose Allison recorded "One Room Country Shack" two years later, Dee had left music almost completely by the late-'50s. Tracked down by Chris Strachwitz, owner of the Arhoolie record label, in April 1961, Dee was coaxed into participating in four recording sessions of his music. While most tracks showcased Dee's solo piano playing and singing, others featured the accompaniment of rhythm guitarist K.C. Douglas, harmonica player Sidney Maiden, and drummer Otis Cherry. ~ Craig Harris

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