Saturday, 18 November 2017

Johnny Mercer born 18 November 1909

John Herndon Mercer (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976) was an American lyricist, songwriter and singer. He was also a record label executive, who co-founded Capitol Records with music industry businessman Buddy DeSylva and Glenn E. Wallichs.

He was born John Herndon Mercer on November 18, 1909 into an old Southern family in Savannah, Georgia. His father was a wealthy attorney with a flourishing real estate business, and young John was sent to a fashionable prep school, the Woodbury Forrest School in Virginia. However, when he was 17, his father's business collapsed, and his father found himself a million dollars in debt. Rather than declare bankruptcy, his father dedicated the rest of his life to paying off that debt, and suddenly young John Mercer, no longer able to go on to college, was on his way to New York City, hoping to make good as an actor.
 Acting, however, was not to be Mercer's destiny. He got a few bit parts, and took other jobs to survive, including a stint as a Wall Street runner, but his first small break came in 1930 when a song for which he had written the lyric was sung on Broadway in The Garrick Gaieties of 1930. In 1932, he won a singing contest and landed a job as singer with the Paul Whiteman Band. Whiteman introduced him to Hoagy Carmichael, and soon Mercer and Carmichael had a hit with "Lazybones" (1933). Composers quickly discovered his talent, and his career as a lyricist took off.
 In 1933, he moved to Hollywood, where he began writing songs for the movies. Meanwhile, his singing career continued to grow. He sang duets with people like Jack Teagarden and Bing Crosby. In 1938 and 1939, he was a singer with the Benny Goodman Band, and by the early 1940s he was popular enough to have his own radio show, Johnny Mercer's Music Shop.
 In 1942, together with fellow songwriter (and film producer) Buddy De Sylva and businessman Glen Wallichs, he founded Capitol Records and became Capitol's first President and chief talent scout. Soon, he had signed up such performers as Stan Kenton, Nat "King" Cole, Jo Stafford, and Margaret Whiting, and by 1946 Capitol was responsible for one sixth of all records sold in the U.S.

 In 1946, he teamed up with Harold Arlen to write the Broadway musical St. Louis Woman. The show was not a success, but it included such classic songs as "Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home", "I Wonder What Became Of Me", "I Had Myself A True Love", "Come Rain Or Come Shine".

Arlen and Mercer
In that same year, he won his first Academy Award, for "On The Atchison, Topeka, And Santa Fe"(music by Harry Warren), sung by Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls.
 His second Oscar came for "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening" (music by Hoagy Carmichael), which Bing Crosby and
Jane Wyman sang in the 1951 film Here Comes the Groom. Also in 1951, he wrote the score, both words and music, for the successful Broadway musical Top Banana.
 In 1954, he wrote the lyrics to Gene De Paul's music for the classic Hollywood musical Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. In 1956, he and De Paul teamed up again to turn out the score for the hit Broadway musical Li'l Abner, which included "Jubilation T. Cornpone".
 His father had died in 1940, having succeeded in paying off $700,000 of the million he owed. In 1955, Mercer sold his share in Capitol records and, finally able to do so, surprised his father's creditors by using $300,000 of the proceeds to pay off the remainder of the debt.
 In 1961, he wrote "Moon River" (music by Henry Mancini) for the film Breakfast at Tiffany's, winning his third Academy Award. And the next year, he became the first songwriter to win a fourth Oscar, this time for the title song to the 1962 film Days of Wine and Roses (music again by Mancini).
 He was the founding president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, where his outstanding business skills were tremendously valuable in getting the organization off to a sound start. He also initiated planning, together with Oscar Brand for a Songwriters Hall of Fame archive and museum.
 Mercer wrote hit songs in four different decades, from the 1930s through the 1960s. His lyrics combine a keen appreciation of American colloquialisms with a profoundly poetic sensibility. At their best, they have a richness and emotional complexity that is simply amazing.
 While working on a new musical in London with Andre Previn, Mercer learned that the headaches he had been having were due to a brain tumour. Planning ahead, he arranged for his friend Sammy Cahn to take over as president of the National Academy of Popular Music (the parent organization of the Songwriters Hall of Fame).

After receiving a diagnosis of brain cancer, Mercer underwent surgery, from which he never fully recovered.

He died June 25, 1976, and is buried in the family plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. (Info mainly compiled from Songwriters Hall of Fame) 


boppinbob said...

For “Capitol Sings - Johnny Mercer” go here:

01 - Ella Mae Morse - Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive
02 - Martha Tilton - And the Angels sing
03 - Gordon MacRae - Autumn Leaves
04 - Johnny Mercer, Jo Stafford & Pied Pipers - Blues in the Night
05 - Blossom Dearie - Charade
06 - Judy Garland - Come Rain or Shine
07 - Nat King Cole - Day in, Day out
08 - Matt Monro - Days of Wine and Roses
09 - The Pied Pipers - Dream
10 - Benny Goodman - Goody Goody
11 - Johnny Mercer - Glow Worm
12 - The Four Freshmen - I thought about You
13 - Dinah Shore - I'm Old Fashioned
14 - Dean Martin - In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening
15 - Chris Connor - Jeepers Creepers
16 - Vic Damone - Laura
17 - Lena Horne - Moon River
18 - Johnny Mercer & Pied Pipers - On the Atchison, Topeka
19 - Harold Arlen - One for my Baby
20 - Kay Starr - P.S. I love You
21 - Nancy Wilson - Satin Doll
22 - Hoagy Carmichael - Skylark
23 - Louis Prima & Keely Smith - That Old Black Magic
24 - Andy Russell - Too Marvelous for Words

A big thank you to Chileno @ San Jose 72 blog for original post.

For “American Songbook Series – Johnny Mercer” go here:

01 Hooray For Hollywood - Johnny 'Scat' Davis & Frances Langford
02 Bob White (What You Gonna Swing Tonight) - Johnny Mercer
03 Jeepers Creepers - Louis Armstrong
04 Day In - Day Out - Bob Crosby & Helen Ward
05 Fools Rush In - Mildred Bailey
06 Dearly Beloved - Dinah Shore
07 Dream - Jo Stafford
08 Tangerine - Helen O'connell & Bob Eberly
09 The Waiter And The Porter And The Upstairs Maid - Bing Crosby & Mary Martin
10 Trav'lin' Light - Billie Holiday
11 Laura - Woody Herman
12 Glow Worm - The Mills Brothers
13 Anyplace I Hang My Hat Is Home - Judy Garland
14 The Country's In The Very Best Hands - Peter Palmer, Stubby Kaye & Company
15 Autumn Leaves - Gordon Macrae
16 Hit The Road To Dreamland - Margaret Whiting
17 Goody Goody - Diahann Carroll
18 I Wanna Be Around - Tony Bennett
19 P.S. I Love You - Mel Tormé
20 Whistling Away The Dark - Johnny Mathis
21 Moon River - Andy Williams

A big thank you to Jake @ Let’s dance blog for active link.

Terry Peck said...

Excellent compilation albums clearly demonstrating a songwriter of extraordinary talent. Thanks boppinbob for these, and all your other works. I would heartily recommend an album named “Two of a Kind” released on theAtlantic label, which contains duets sung by Johnny Mercer and the wonderful Bobby Darin. I believe it was rereleased a couple of years back with some bonus material.

boppinbob said...

Hi Terry, Have got said album from which many tracks have been played on Angel Radio. I have since grabbed a 3cd set off the web by Mosaic records which has 79 tracks of Johnny's records from 1942-1947(too late to post here! plus I've just come back from the local) regards, Bob