Mercer, Johnny

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1909-11-18
Death 1976-06-25
Americans

Biographical notes:

Johnny Mercer (1910-1976) was born John H. Mercer in Savannah, Georgia, the son of George Anderson Mercer. He was educated in Savannah public schools and at Woodberry Forest School in Virginia. He worked with his father in the real estate loan business before heading to New York in 1929 with the Savannah Town Theater group for a National Little Theater contest. He remained in New York to try for a stage career. He became a well-known lyricist and moved to California, where he produced many hit songs for motion picture musical productions.

From the description of Johnny Mercer correspondence, 1955-1971. (Georgia Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 122932083

John Herndon Mercer (1909-1976), a native of Savannah, Georgia, was one of the foremost figures of 20th century American popular music. His song catalog includes many numbers that have become American classics, and his activities as lyricist, composer, performer and businessman span a period of nearly five decades. Throughout his life, Mercer painted in watercolor for his own enjoyment and relaxation. Some of his work was from photographs.

From the description of Johnny Mercer paintings reproduction collection. (Georgia State University). WorldCat record id: 191958375

Johnny Mercer was an American songwriter, singer, and composer. He was born John H. Mercer in Savannah, Georgia on 18 November 1909 and was the son of George Anderson and Lillian Mercer. He was educated in the Savannah public schools, the Woodberry Forest School in Virginia, and was destined to follow his family's tradition of attending Princeton University, but was unable to do so when his father's real estate business experienced financial setbacks in the late 1920s. As a result, Mercer began to help with his father's real estate business until he became bored with it and moved to New York in 1928 where he tried to pursue a career in show business. Mercer was able to earn roles in traveling performances, but soon made his mark in composing songs and lyrics for the variety shows. He soon became a well-known lyricist and moved to California where he produced many hit songs for motion picture musical productions and Broadway shows. Mercer died 25 June 1976 after losing a battle to brain cancer and is buried in his family's plot in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah.

From the description of Johnny Mercer sheet music, 1931-1941. (Georgia Historical Society). WorldCat record id: 301806792

John Herndon Mercer (1909-1976) was born and raised in Savannah, Georgia. He moved to new York City in the late 1920s to pursue an acting career, and moved to Hollywood in 1935 to write songs and act in films. During his career he performed as a vocalist with the Benny Goodman and Paul Whiteman bands, co-founded Capitol Records, recorded songs for Capitol and other labels, and became one of America's foremost lyricists, with a documented catalog of over 1,700 songs.

From the description of Johnny Mercer Papers, 1885-1988. (Georgia State University). WorldCat record id: 30994644

Johnny Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia on November 18, 1909. He spent his childhood in Savannah, then attended Woodbury Forest School in Virginia from 1922-1927. It was here that he wrote his first song at the age of 15. After graduating from Woodbury, he worked at his father's real estate business before traveling to New York as an actor with a theater group. He returned to New York in 1929 and 1930 to continue acting, but continued to write songs. Mercer wrote "Out of Breath and Scared to Death of You" for the Garrick Gaieties of 1930, and went from there to become one of America's major songwriters of the 1930s through the 1960s. (He was also active as an actor from the 1930s on, but not as much as he was active as a songwriter.) Mercer mostly worked in New York during the early 1930s, then moved to the west coast in 1935 after accepting an offer from RKO. In 1942, he founded Capitol Records with Glenn Wallichs and Buddy DeSylva. Mercer served as the company's first president. He continued writing music into the 1970s, despite the lack of films requiring popular music in their scores. Mercer underwent surgery for a brain tumor in October of 1975, and never recovered from the operation. He died on June 25, 1976 and was survived by his wife Elizabeth "Ginger" (Meehan) Mercer, to whom he was married in 1931, and their two children, Georgia Amanda (known as "Mandy") and John Jefferson (known as "Jeff").

Ginger Mercer was born Elizabeth Meltzer on June 25, 1909 in Brooklyn, New York, one of three daughters born to Anna and Joseph Meltzer. Specially gifted from childhood, Ginger studied piano and dance and made her stage debut at age 16 under the stage name "Ginger Meehan." From the mid-1920s through approximately 1930 Ginger appeared as a dancer in numerous shows, including Honeymoon Lane (1926), in which Kate Smith made her debut, and the 1930 production of Ruth Selwyn's Nine-Fifteen Review. While a member of the cast of the Garrick Gaieties of 1930 Ginger met an aspiring actor named Johnny Mercer, who had moved to New York from Savannah, Georgia to try his hand at a show business career. Mercer had hoped to win a role in the Gaieties, but instead placed one of his songs in the show and met Ginger, his future wife. Their courtship continued throughout 1930 and 1931, complicated by the separations they endured as each of their shows toured from city to city, and the two were finally married in New York City on June 8, 1931. They raised two children, Georgia Amanda (known as "Mandy," the inspiration for the Mercer song "Mandy is Two") and John Jefferson (known as "Jeff"), during a marriage that lasted 45 years, until Johnny's death on June 25, 1976. Following her husband's death, Ginger traveled widely and spent much of her time promoting her husband's legacy. In 1982, she founded the Johnny Mercer Foundation, a charitable foundation that awards grants to songwriters and contributes funds to charities and non-profit organizations in the arts, to selected medical sciences, and to projects commemorating Johnny Mercer.

From the description of Johnny and Ginger Mercer papers, 1925 - ca. 1992. (Georgia State University). WorldCat record id: 191823231

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Subjects:

  • Debt
  • Mercer, Johnny--1909-1976--Sheet music
  • Lyricists--20th century--Archival resources
  • Charities
  • Popular music--20th century--Archival resources
  • Art, Amateur
  • Motion picture music
  • Popular music

Occupations:

  • Lyricists
  • Performer

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)
  • United States (as recorded)