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This Day in Georgia History

November 18, 1909

Johnny Mercer Born

To view an image of Johnny Mercer, see the Digital Library of Georgia.

Song writer Johnny Mercer was born in Savannah. Mercer was fascinated with music as a youth and at age fifteen wrote his first song - a piece for his sister. Hoping to become an actor, he went to New York with an amateur theater group in 1928. While auditioning for a show the next year, he met Elizabeth “Ginger” Meehan, who became his wife in 1931. Mercer did not earn an acting role in the show, but did write a song that was used - “Out of Breath and Scared to Death.” With the contacts he had made in New York and his remarkable song writing talents, Mercer was soon collaborating with some of the nation’s most prominent musicians, such as Hoagy Carmichael, Benny Goodman, Tony Bennett, and Bing Crosby. In 1935 he moved to Hollywood, where his career soared, writing songs for both popular musicians and film scores. While Mercer lived in California from 1935, he never forgot his ties to Georgia. He kept a country home near the Wormsloe plantation on Burnside Island near Savannah. In 1962, the Chatham County Commission renamed Black River (near his home) after one of Mercer’s biggest hits - Moon River. Mercer died on June 25, 1976, in Bel Aire, Calif., but his ashes were buried in Bonaventure Cemetery in Savannah. President Gerald Ford eulogized him as a man whose “mellow voice revealed that he was a child of the South; but his phrases were full of affection for people everywhere.” The following are some of Mercer’s famous works:

“On the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe” (Academy Award winner)
“I’m an Old Cowhand from the Rio Grande”
“Too Marvelous for Words”
“You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”
“I’m Old Fashioned”
“Accentuate the Positive”
“In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” (Academy Award winner)
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (film score)
“Moon River” (Academy Award winner)
“Days of Wine and Roses” (Academy Award winner)
Star Spangled Rhythm (film score)
“That Old Black Magic”
“Blues in the Night”
“One for My Baby”
“My Shining Hour”
“G.I. Jive”
“Something’s Gotta Give”
“Goody, Goody”
“Jeepers, Creepers”
“P.S. I Love You”

In 1996, the U.S. Postal Service issued a commemorative stamp honoring Johnny Mercer.