The Story Behind The Judds' "Have Mercy"
Photo: The Judds/Facebook
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The Story Behind The Judds’ “Have Mercy”


The Judds scored their fifth chart-topping single, “Have Mercy,” penned by former British ad exec Paul Kennerley. In the midst of England’s punk rock craze in 1976, Kennerley found an unexpected love for country music, sparked by Waylon Jennings’ record “Let’s All Help the Cowboys Sing the Blues.” This fusion of “Country meets the Rolling Stones” captured his interest.

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Kennerley delved into country music’s roots, driven to write his own country material. Despite lacking personal experience, he turned to American history, resulting in the concept albums “White Mansions” and “The Legend of Jesse James.” While not commercially successful, they connected him with Jennings and Emmylou Harris.

>>READ ALSO: The Story Behind Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty’s Classic Duet “Louisiana Woman, Mississippi Man”


Emmylou’s 1981 hit “Born To Run” marked a turning point for Kennerley, leading him to Nashville. He continued his success, composing hits for artists like Patty Loveless, Marty Stuart, Tanya Tucker, Sweethearts of the Rodeo, Juice Newton, and, notably, The Judds.

Kennerley’s collaboration with The Judds yielded seven singles, four of which topped the charts. “Have Mercy” was the first chart-topper, though he initially offered them “Cry Myself To Sleep.” After recording the latter, Kennerley intentionally crafted “Have Mercy” for The Judds, aiming for a rhythm and blues flavor.

When the duo’s producer, Brent Maher, heard “Have Mercy,” he was so impressed that he rushed to play it for Wynonna and Naomi in Jackson, Mississippi. The enthusiastic reaction from the Judds marked the beginning of the song’s journey to becoming their fifth Billboard number one hit on December 28, 1985.

Video: The Judds – Have Mercy

>>READ ALSO: The Story Behind Kenny Rogers’ Holiday Song “Mary, Did You Know”

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