We know his name, we know the songs, we just don't always connect the two: "Moon River," "Satin Doll," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" - the sometimes clever, sometimes moving and always sophisticated lyrics all came from Johnny Mercer. With over 1,400 songs to his credit, Mercer was a triple threat - a composer, a lyricist and a man with a sensational singing voice. And American musicologist Robert Wyatt will tell his story at 10 on Saturday morning at Highfield Hall in Falmouth.
General admission is $25; members of Historic Highfield pay $20.
John "Johnny" Herndon Mercer was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1909 to a well-connected family. Mercer not only received an excellent education, but was also exposed to major cultural institutions, attending concerts, lectures, and the theater. His vivid childhood nurtured him with the richness of spirituals, jazz and the blues, and a deep southern tradition. His father was equally a fan of turn-of-the-century standards and the new sounds of performers like Louis Armstrong and "Ma" Rainey. Young Johnny seemed to revel in it all, from the sophisticated to the vernacular.
When financial disaster ended his college career, Mercer joined an amateur performing troupe. He soon decided to move to New York and pursue show business as a career. From his early successes, Mercer grew to become one of the best-loved songwriters in American history. His popular hits include "Jeepers Creepers," "Glow-Worm" and "Goody Goody" among so many others.
Mercer also wrote for Hollywood and was nominated for eighteen Academy Awards for best song. He won four times, including Oscars for "The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe" and "Days of Wine and Roses."
As a co-founder of the first successful West Coast recording company, Capitol Records, Mercer boosted his own career along with the careers of Nat King Cole, Judy Garland, The Kingston Trio, Dean Martin, Dinah Shore and Frank Sinatra.
Robert Wyatt's presentation will lead participants on a journey through the rich life of Johnny Mercer, combining archival photographs along with audio and video clips to bring Mercer and his talent back to life and into Highfield Hall. Audience members will see for themselves Mercer's musical relationships with the likes of Hoagy Carmichael, Benny Goodman, Fred Astaire, Paul Whiteman, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Louis Armstrong.
Musical recordings will feature Mercer himself as well as other top crooners serenading with tunes like "You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby," "Fools Rush In" and "Blues in the Night." Mr. Wyatt will make clear how Johnny Mercer worked his "Old Black Magic."
Information and registration are available at www.highfieldhall.org or by calling 508-495-1878.