"Mess Around", written by Atlantic Records president and founder Ahmet Ertegün under the pseudonym of A. Nugetre, or "Nuggy" was one of Ray Charles’ first hits. Ertegün claims his inspiration for writing "Mess Around" was Pete Johnson. Earlier versions of the tune, a New Orleans boogie piano riff, can be heard throughout the early 30s and 40s the earliest of all being "Cow Cow Blues" from Charles "Cow Cow" Davenport in 1928. Dr John has spoken of the origination of this tune on his "Dr John Teaches New Orleans Piano" series of DVDs.
The lyrics urge listeners to dance ("mess around"), along with a few other key phrases, notably the "girl with the red dress on", harkening back to "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie", the early boogie woogie classic. "Mess Around" became a big R&B charted hit when released as a single in early 1953.