Johnny Mercer (1909-1976)

Johnny Mercer´s much-deserved place in the songwriting pantheon of great creative artists is based on his superlative achievements as a major lyricist, a composer, a distinctive pop singer, and a recording executive.

Born in Savannah, Georgia in 1909, young John H. Mercer set off to New York during the Depression to become an actor on Broadway. At his first audition, he was told that what they needed was “girls and songs.” He obliged by writing his first song, “Out of Breath and Scared to Death of You” that found its way into the GARRICK GAIETIES OF 1930. He also met and married a chorus girl from that show, launching both a successful songwriting career and a 40+ year marriage. In time, he was also singing on radio with Benny Goodman and Paul Whiteman and collaborating with some of the major composers of Tin Pan Alley and Hollywood.

Among his hits beginning in the Thirties: “Lazy Bones” and “Skylark”(with Hoagy Carmichael); “I´m An Old Cowhand” (words & music by Mercer); “Too Marvelous for Words” and “Hooray for Hollywood” (with Richard Whiting); “Jeepers Creepers” and “You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby” (with Harry Warren); “Blues in the Night,” “That Old Black Magic,” “My Shining Hour,” “One For My Baby,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Ac-cent-tchu-ate The Positive” (with Harold Arlen); “Dearly Beloved,” “I´m Old Fashioned” (with Jerome Kern); a string of Hollywood hits such as “On The Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe,” “Laura,” “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (1951 Academy Award winner), “Something´s Gotta Give,” and as late as the Sixties with Henry Mancini, Academy Award winners “Days of Wine and Roses,” and “Moon River.”

Other Mercer standards: “Day In-Day Out,” “And The Angels Sing,” “Fools Rush In.” “I Remember You,” “Dream,” and dozens of others forever linked to the Forties and Fifties.

Always a recognizable, jovial personality as a singer and songwriter, Mercer also co-founded Capitol Records and became a major commercial power in the music industry. Above all else, Mercer´s lyrics are his calling card: the trains, the rivers, the birds, the sights and sounds of the American landscape all repeatedly show up in a way that have made him America´s greatest songwriting Folk Poet.

If you would like to engage Fred Miller for one of his Lectures-in-Song, please contact him directly at any time. For a full listing of all Lectures, click here.

Fred Miller’s Lectures-In-Song comprise a series of solo programs, each an historical, anecdotal and musical profile of some great personality or important aspect of American Popular Song. These Lectures are delivered by singer/pianist/narrator Miller at the piano, and each reflects his lifetime passion and appreciation for great music. He studied classical piano in his hometown of Albuquerque from ages 7-15 but early on gave up any notion of music as a profession. At that time, Fred assumed a musical career was either one devoted to the rigid discipline of classical music or being a freewheeling rock star, and he accurately decided he had no aptitude for either. However, at age 22, upon hearing Ella Fitzgerald sing Cole Porter, he found his calling and life’s mission.

Through the Seventies and Eighties, Miller studied and absorbed in minute detail the life and times and songs of nearly all the great American composers and lyricists who thrived during Broadway & Hollywood’s Golden Age between the two World Wars. In 1987, he founded Silver Dollar Productions in order to produce operettas, dramas, musicals and small cabarets. Silver Dollar Productions required ensemble casts, props, costumes and, most significantly, the challenges of publicity and selling tickets, and for a dozen busy years, the company presented an unbroken string of varied and highly lauded performances.

In 1999, Miller was simultaneously underwritten by both his local Hunterdon County Library and the Art Alliance of Philadelphia to present a series of six solo Lectures-In-Song, each devoted to one of the premiere Broadway/Hollywood songwriters: George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, Richard Rodgers, Jerome Kern, and Harold Arlen.

In presenting history, biography and psychology while sitting at a piano singing the superlative songs of his heroes, Miller has found a single performing medium that utilizes most of his intellectual and musical passions.The list of Lectures-In-Song that began with six in 1999 is now more than seventy(and growing!), a joyful tribute to the boundlessly rich field of American Popular Song.