25 November 2009

My Oh My

Another Johnny Mercer recording has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame:
Johnny Mercer
Capitol (1946)
Pop (Single)

Johnny's in good company. The other recordings inducted this year were by Dooley Wilson, Weather Report, The Beach Boys, Bob Marley and The Wailers, George Carlin, Billie Holiday, King Oliver and His Jazz Band, Duke Ellington and His Famous Orchestra, Ella Fitzgerald/Count Basie, Jose Feliciano, Judy Garland and Gene Kelly, Mahalia Jackson, Muddy Waters, James Brown, Stan Getz/Charlie Byrd, Jelly Roll Morton, Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Janis Joplin, The Doors, The Isley Brothers, Bo Diddley, Harry James and His Orchestra.

A Johnny Mercer recording was previously inducted in 1998:
Johnny Mercer And The Pied Pipers
Capitol (1945)
Traditional Pop (Single)

"The GRAMMY Hall Of Fame Award was established by The Recording Academy's National Trustees in 1973 to honor recordings of lasting qualitative or historical significance that are at least 25 years old. Inductees are selected annually by a special member committee of eminent and knowledgeable professionals from all branches of the recording arts."

23 November 2009

Mail Call

For Johnny's centennial, I decided to promote this blog on a few other forums. Here are some of the replies:

Hi Mark ~
I remember Clint Eastwood directed the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which mentioned Mercer several times and used his tunes (by other artists)... I thought it was a good movie. I like Dr. John's version of "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive"!
[Note from Mark: Dr. John corrected the spelling to "Accentuate"!]

"Dream" is a wonderful song!!!!

The Man who just happened to write the lyrics [music by Rube Bloom] to my all-time favorite 45 rpm record: "Fools Rush In" by Rick Nelson feat. James Burton.

The songs he wrote with Harold Arlen are some of my all-time favorite "standards". Timeless, outstanding songs. Here's to you, Johnny.

You should come down to Savannah, Ga. We're celebrating.

Love his house! (as featured in the Eastwood adaptation of "Midnight In The Garden Of Good & Evil".

18 November 2009

Johnny is 100

He's a big boy now.

Here he is (with singer Ella Mae Morse), sans shirt and tie. I mean... Johnny is sans, not Ella Mae.

Probably not a "fashion statement". He seems to have been celebrating even before this photo was taken.

Enjoy Johnny Mercer's centennial autumn.

15 November 2009

The Glow-Worm

'The Glow-Worm' (modern version by Johnny Mercer, music by Paul Lincke, original lyrics by Lilla C. Robinson)

'Brilliantly recorded by Johnny Mercer on Capitol...'

'Bigger than 'Paper Doll' for The Mills Brothers on Decca...'.

'Quartette for male voices'

G.I. Jive

'G.I. Jive' (by Johnny Mercer)
'Recorded by Johnny Mercer with Paul Weston and his Orchestra' for Capitol.
Johnny is pointing out his affiliation with A.S.C.A.P.

Dearly Beloved

'Dearly Beloved' (Lyric by Johnny Mercer, Music by Jerome Kern)
'Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth in the new Columbia musical production "You Were Never Lovelier" with Adolphe Menjou and Xavier Cugat and his Orchestra'
'Song Suitable for Weddings'

13 November 2009

Cassandra Wilson

Cassandra Wilson Sings the 'Standards'
By Doug Levine
16 November 2002

Years before jazz singer Cassandra Wilson rose to international acclaim on Blue Note Records she enjoyed a six-year solo stint on the JMT label. She recorded seven albums for JMT covering everything from pop and gospel to original acoustic blues and jazz standards. A new CD highlights Wilson's pivotal JMT years, titled Cassandra Wilson Sings Standards.

Cassandra Wilson proved herself a commanding singer of jazz standards on her 1990 album Blue Skies. Four of the 11 tracks on her new compilation come from Blue Skies, including Jerome Kern and Johnny Mercer's I'm Old Fashioned.

Cassandra Wilson always had a passion for singing standards. Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, she learned to play piano and guitar while honing her vocal skills. In 1982, she moved to New York to work with singer Abbey Lincoln, bassist Dave Holland, and jazz groups New Air and M-Base Collective.

Her solo debut album, Point Of View, features an original arrangement of the Miles Davis standard, Blue In Green. The track inspired Wilson to record her 1999 Miles Davis tribute album, Traveling Miles.

Legendary jazz pianist Thelonious Monk was another important musical influence.

In addition to Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk, Cassandra Wilson covers standards by Jay Lerner and Frederick Lowe, Billy Strayhorn, Johnny Green, Ralph Rainger and Dorothy Parker.

Wilson returned to her usual blending of jazz, pop, rock, folk and Delta blues on her 2002 album, Belly Of The Sun, featuring songs by Bob Dylan, Jimmy Webb, James Taylor, The Band and "Mississippi" Fred McDowell.

The Songwriters Hall of Fame

By Mary Morningstar
08 June 2002

June 13, Michael Jackson, Ashford & Simpson, Barry Manilow, Sting and Randy Newman will be honored as the newest members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. In addition, Garth Brooks will receive the Hitmaker Award, the Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Stevie Wonder, and Carole King will accept the Johnny Mercer Award. The Songwriters Hall of Fame was founded in 1969 by songwriter Johnny Mercer and publishers Abe Olman and Howie Richmond. Previous inductees include Elton John, Billy Joel, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Brian Wilson, Bob Dylan, Jim Croce and Burt Bacharach. This year's event will take place at the Sheraton New York Hotel.

Rosemary Clooney

Rosemary Clooney's 'Sentimental Journey'
By Doug Levine
22 February 2002

On February 27, famed pop and jazz singer Rosemary Clooney will be honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards. But there's a chance Clooney won't be present to accept it. Last month, she underwent surgery for lung cancer, and is recovering at home in Rochester, Minnesota.

This was supposed to be Rosemary Clooney's year: a Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, Sentimental Journey.

Fortunately, the surgery to remove cancer from Clooney's left lung was a success. Her condition was recently upgraded from serious to fair. Fans are hoping she'll be well enough to attend this year's Grammy ceremony.

Rosemary Clooney has been singing for most of her 73 years. Born in Maysville, Kentucky, she launched her career with her younger sister Betty in 1945, on a Cincinnati, Ohio radio station. Known as "The Clooney Sisters", they performed with the Tony Pastor Orchestra before going their separate ways in 1949.

Soon after her arrival in New York City, Rosemary signed with Columbia Records. Along with recording stars Kay Starr, Doris Day and Peggy Lee, Clooney became known as one of the era's Girl Singers. Her 1951 hit song Come On-a My House brought her international fame. Radio, television and film work followed, including a role in the top-grossing movie of 1954, White Christmas. Her early collaborators included Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman and Bing Crosby. Among Clooney's many albums for her current label Concord Records are tributes to composers Cole Porter, Johnny Mercer and Ira Gershwin.

The Recording Academy has named Rosemary Clooney one of five recipients of this year's Lifetime Achievement Awards, along with Joni Mitchell, Al Green, Count Basie and Perry Como. The honorees will be acknowledged at the 44th Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California on February 27.

Messages that mention Rosemary Clooney:

Johnny Mercer meets The Beatles

Tony Bennett

Days of Wine and Roses

1962: 'Days of Wine and Roses' (music by Henry Mancini - words by Johnny Mercer) from the movie 'Days of Wine and Roses', directed by Blake Edwards. Johnny and Henry auditioned this song for Jack Lemmon and Blake Edwards. When they finished, Lemmon was crying and Edwards was holding back his tears. Johnny won his fourth Academy Award for this song. Mercer felt obligated to point out that poet Ernest Dowson created the title phrase.
Sheet music cover: Jack Lemmon, Lee Remick. (I love Lee Remick - she's a doll.)


'Charade' (music by Henry Mancini - lyrics by Johnny Mercer) from 'Charade' (cover: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn... but you might need a magnifying glass.)

09 November 2009

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive

'Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive (Mister in-Between)' (words by Johnny Mercer - music by Harold Arlen) from the Paramount Picture 'Here Come the Waves' (cover: Bing Crosby, Betty Hutton, and Sonny Tufts)

Bing looks more like Gary Crosby than Bing here. Does that make any sense?
And below Bing and Betty... SONNY TUFTS?!

08 November 2009

Our Huckleberry Friend

Our Huckleberry Friend: The Life, Times and Lyrics of Johnny Mercer by Bob Bach, Ginger Mercer, Johnny Mercer

From the jacket of the U.S. hardcover edition:

"Moon River," "Blues In The Night," "Laura," "That Old Black Magic" and "Satin Doll" are only a handful from the enormous catalogue of hit songs written by Johnny Mercer. His wit and talent with words made him the peer of Cole Porter, Lorenz Hart, Ira Gershwin and Oscar Hammerstein II, giants in the pantheon of songwriters. Many have compared him with his idol, W.S. Gilbert.

Our Huckleberry Friend is a collection of Mercer's lyrics and memorabilia. It covers Mercer's life from his Savannah, Georgia, childhood through his Hollywood days and the remarkable productive period of the thirties, forties and fifties.

We see the birth of the lively Capitol Records label, and Mercer's association with Nat "King" Cole, Peggy Lee, Betty Hutton, and many others. Mercer went on to win four Academy Awards and to experience the shattering disappointment of several Broadway shows that failed.

It is all here, the successes and the failures, written by Mercer's widow and his close friend Bob Bach. The handsome volume is illustrated with more than a hundred photographs, many from Mrs. Mercer's private albums.

Bob Bach's name became nationally known among television audiences as the producer of the long-running and very successful panel show "What's My Line." He produced other game shows and musical specials featuring such greats as Benny Goodman, Stan Kenton and Mel Torme. Before entering the video field he wrote for Down Beat, Metronome and Billboard magazines.

Ginger Mercer, who was a dancer on the Broadway stage before marrying Johnny Mercer in 1931, is currently [1982] carrying on the traditions of her late husband. She is a member of the council of The American Guild of Authors and Composers and recently formed the Johnny Mercer Foundation for Children.

Susannah McCorkle

New CD Features Susannah McCorkle's Most Requested Songs
By Doug Levine
26 November 2001

Acclaimed jazz vocalist Susannah McCorkle was 55 years old when she jumped to her death from her New York City apartment last May. Her apparent suicide was linked to an ongoing bout with clinical depression.

McCorkle had a repertoire of more than 3,000 songs. She was a prolific recording artist, lyricist and interpreter of the Great American Songbook. Singer Tony Bennett once called "a wonderful pioneer." Some of her best recordings are now available on a tribute album called Most Requested Songs.

California native Susannah McCorkle arrived on the New York City jazz scene late in life.

As a student living in France studying language and writing short stories, she heard a Billie Holiday record and decided to pursue singing. Susannah's ear for music and gift for speaking foreign languages led to a successful start in clubs in Italy and England.

She released two albums in Europe before returning to the US in the late '70s to record her first songbook, The Songs of Johnny Mercer.

Another hero was composer "Yip" Harburg. McCorkle's version of "If I Only Had A Heart" first appeared on her 1980 tribute to lyricist "Yip" Harburg, best-known for his collaboration with Harold Arlen on the score for "The Wizard Of Oz."

Other albums followed, including the songbooks of Leo Robin, Cole Porter and George Gershwin. From Susannah McCorkle's 1998 album Someone To Watch Over Me, The Music Of George Gershwin she sings "They Can't Take That Away From Me," also on her album Most Requested Songs.

McCorkle was one of New York City's finest cabaret singers. She was a fixture at the Oak Room in the Algonquin Hotel and had been booked there for a month-long engagement in October.

Her death on May 19 came before the publication in American Heritage magazine of an article she had authored on actress Mae West. She had also written articles on Ethel Waters, Bessie Smith and Irving Berlin.

Susannah McCorkle's most requested song and one she said she "loved singing every single time," was "The Waters Of March" by Brazilian composer Antonio Carlos Jobim.

Come Rain Or Come Shine

Blues Greats Compete for Traditional Blues Grammy
By Doug Levine
17 February 2001

The 43rd annual Grammy Awards will be presented February 21 in Los Angeles, California. VOA's Doug Levine has a preview of the five nominees for Best Traditional Blues Album.

Some of the biggest names in blues are competing in the traditional blues album category, including 85-year-old Robert Lockwood, Jr. Born in Scratch Turkey, Arkansas, Lockwood once played for tips in Beale Street Park in Memphis, Tennessee. He appeared alongside blues greats Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, Freddy King and Howlin' Wolf. His version of Robert Johnson's "Ramblin' On My Mind" comes from his Grammy-nominated album "Delta Crossroads."

He's a little bit country, a little rock, pop, honky-tonk and blues. And he's no stranger to the Grammy Awards. Singer Willie Nelson, founder of America's Farm Aid benefit, picked up a Grammy nomination for his album "Milk Cow Blues." The album includes an all-star cast of blues musicians, including B.B. King, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Susan Tedeschi, Jonny Lang and harmonica player Mickey Raphael. If you like the sound of the harmonica, you'll love the album "Superharps."

"Superharps" features four of today's finest harmonica players: James Cotton, Billy Branch, Charlie Mussellwhite and Sugar Ray Norcia. The harmonica, sometimes referred to as the French harp and Mississippi saxophone, was first introduced in the 1800s. It debuted on blues records in the 1930s, and has been a staple of acoustic and electric blues bands ever since.

From the Grammy nominated album "Superharps," that's Charlie Mussellwhite's "Blues, Why Do You Worry Me?" featuring Musselwhite on vocals and harmonica. Now, how often do artists get to compete against themselves in the same category? Leave it to the one-and-only "King of the Blues," B.B. King, nominated not once, but twice for Best Traditional Blues Album. For more than five decades, King has let the good times roll, playing his beloved electric guitar Lucille, and singing the blues to audiences everywhere.

From his album "Let The Good Times Roll," a tribute to R&B great Louis Jordan, B.B. King with "Ain't That Just Like A Woman." B.B. King shares the spotlight with another music legend Eric Clapton on their album "Riding With The King." The guitar masters take on classic tunes by Issac Hayes, Johnny Mercer, Big Bill Broonzy and John Hiatt, as well as the B.B. King original "Ten Long Years." The winner of the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album will be announced February 21 at the 43rd Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles, California.