21 November 2012

Dr. John Covers Mercer


Into every singer's repertoire, a song or two by Johnny Mercer must fall.  In Dr. John's case, when it rains Johnny Mercer songs it pours.

Singer and pianist Dr. John is no stranger to the Great American songbook.  His 1989 collection of pop standards, In A Sentimental Mood, features classics by Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, and, of course, Johnny Mercer.

It was almost by accident that Dr. John, known for his fusion of New Orleans funk, pop and soul, ever got around to making an album of Johnny Mercer tunes.  Thinking it was a perfect match for her father, Dr. John's daughter suggested he record Mercer's 1946 hit "Personality."  Noting similarities between himself and his fellow Southerner, including their passion for being in the spotlight, Dr. John recorded not one, but 10 Johnny Mercer compositions for his new album, Mercernary.

Johnny Mercer himself recorded a number of songs during his career, and even though he didn't write "Personality," it's one that always suited his, well … personality.

It was no easy task sorting through a body of work that spans more than 30 years.  But in the end, Dr. John decided to go with Johnny Mercer's most-popular songs, including those he wrote with Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael and Henry Mancini.  Dr. John's soulful arrangements, fueled by his band The Lower 911, will actually have you thinking that Mercer was born and raised in New Orleans rather than Savannah, Georgia.

Dr. John recorded Mercernary just a few months before Hurricane Katrina wreaked havoc on his native New Orleans.  For the past year, he's been an active participant in the city's comeback.  He recently returned to his hometown to perform in a benefit concert to mark the one-year anniversary of the hurricane.

25 September 2012

Songwriters Hall of Fame


On June 15, the Songwriters Hall of Fame will induct five composers at its 2006 ceremony in New York. They include "Philly Soul" sound pioneer Thom Bell, Oscar-winning songwriter Will Jennings, television and film score composer Sylvia Moy, Mac Davis and Henry Cosby. In addition, singer-songwriter John Mayer will receive the Hal David Starlight Award and Kris Kristofferson will be given the Johnny Mercer Award.

[Kris Kristofferson has not recorded any Johnny Mercer songs. But they both wrote songs recorded by Frank Sinatra, by Perry Como, by Andy Williams, and by Elvis Presley.]

The Songwriters Hall of Fame is also mentioned here:

The Songwriters Hall of Fame

25 August 2012

Tony Bennett Returns with The Art of Romance

28 November 2004

All is well with veteran jazz crooner Tony Bennett. At 78, he looks great, and says, with no uncertainty, that he's feeling just fine. Well, why not? His career remains in full swing. Tony recently performed at a benefit concert with Paul McCartney and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Tony also jetted off to the island of Anguilla in the Caribbean to sing at a wedding on national television, and has released a five-disc anniversary collection. Tony Bennett captures our hearts, yet again, with a new CD titled "The Art Of Romance."

Tony Bennett is a master of the Great American Songbook. He's held that title for as long as most fans can remember. Tony puts a magical touch on every song he sings, whether it's Johnny Mercer's "I Remember You" or Johnny Mandel's "Little Did I Dream." His obvious love for entertaining always seems to win over another generation of adoring fans.

To fully appreciate Tony Bennett, you have to return to his humble beginnings as a struggling New York nightclub performer working under the name Joe Bari. Following Bob Hope's suggestion that he change his name to Tony Bennett, the aspiring young singer won his first recording contract and a hit song with "Can You Find It In Your Heart." For most jazz singers, including Tony Bennett, the 1960s and '70s proved to be tough times, as rock 'n' roll, folk and disco commanded a majority of sales and radio airplay. But Bennett, despite falling out of favor, pushed on. He stuck with the classics, and in 1994 he was back on top with his multi-million selling Unplugged album.

What's been the key to Tony Bennett's success? He admits that some of it comes from luck, but adds, "It's about having faith in the audience to discover great art."

Tributes to great composers and vocalists are nothing new for Tony Bennett. His most recent recordings included tribute albums honoring Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, and a Grammy-winning effort with k.d. lang to Louis Armstrong.

Tony Bennett wanted to try something a little different on his latest release, Art Of Romance. In addition to re-introducing little-known songs to listeners, he made his songwriting debut, composing the lyrics to Django Reinhardt's "All For You."

Tony also covers the 1966 Johnny Mercer/Geoffrey Clarkson song "Time To Smile".

Another message on Tony Bennett:

Tony Bennett

Tony Bennett is also mentioned here:

All-Star Recording Pays Tribute to Johnny Mercer

Susannah McCorkle

28 July 2012

Actor Danny Aiello Records His First Album


In a career spanning 30 years, actor Danny Aiello has played some of Hollywood's most memorable characters. Working with such top directors as Martin Scorcese, Spike Lee and Woody Allen, Aiello often gets cast as the working-class elder statesman, portraying urban tough guys as well as gentle, sensitive types. But, had it not been for acting, Danny Aiello would have done just fine as a singer.

Danny Aiello says he always wanted to sing. As a kid growing up in New York City, he and his friends sang a cappella on street corners. Later, as a part-time host at a comedy club, Aiello entertained customers by going on stage and singing at 2 or 3 in the morning.

Acting came next. Since taking a small part in the 1973 film Bang The Drum Slowly, Aiello has rarely been out of work. Twice he's combined his love for music and film, singing in the movies Once Around and Hudson Hawk. And then there was his appearance in Madonna's "Papa Don't Preach" video in 1986. But, of course, Madonna did all the singing in that one.

Finally, in 2003, Aiello was presented an offer he couldn't refuse, a recording contract with the independent label IN2N Entertainment. Admitting that he started acting late in life, Aiello realized time had not yet run out on his dream of recording an album.

Danny Aiello makes an impressive debut on his album, I Just Wanted To Hear The Words, with classics like "Pennies From Heaven" and "You Made Me Love You." Equally at home on ballads as he is with big band and swing, Aiello easily tackles the Great American Songbook.

On "The Curtain Falls," Aiello sounds like he might have tapped into a little "method" acting. Hearing his bittersweet ode to closing nights, it's obvious he's been there before. He also covers the works of Johnny Mercer, Cole Porter and Harold Arlen, to name a few.

Danny Aiello, the actor, is busier than ever. He recently completed work on a feature film, titled Lobster Farm, to be followed by a co-starring role with his son Rick in That's Amore.

30 June 2012

Johnny Mercer Sings Just For Fun

Scheduled for release: July 2012

Lyricist for more songs than any other songwriter in history, Oscar-winning Johnny Mercer also made recordings and had four chart-toppers in the 1940s. The 29 tracks here span four decades; from the 1940s are five fun songs appearing on CD for the first time. From the 1950s are songs Mercer recorded with the Paul Smith Trio and appearing in stereo for the first time including his own "Blues In The Night", "Spring, Spring, Spring" and "Accentuate The Positive". Also included are nine demo songs Mercer composed with Hoagy Carmichael for an aborted film project, "The Keystone Girl" to star Betty Hutton. These demos with Mercer performing and Carmichael accompanying on piano are appearing on CD for the first time and include the first ever recorded version of the Oscar-winning "In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening". The final four tracks are demos from the Mercer / Andre Previn West End stage musical "The Good Companions" starring Judi Dench. One of the four tracks, "Little Lost Dream" was rejected from the final production, and how wonderful it is to hear it being sung here by the lyricist with piano accompaniment by the composer Andre Previn.

Available on compact disc and MP3 album.

Track list:

29 May 2012

Songs From The Rosemary Clooney Show Released on CD for 1st Time


America's "Girl Singer" Rosemary Clooney had a career that spanned six decades. She was a tireless performer, known for her work on radio, stage and motion pictures. At her peak in the 1950s, she had her own television show, featuring renowned conductor Nelson Riddle and dozens of musical guest stars. Most importantly, it showcased Clooney's simple yet dynamic style, and allowed her the freedom to choose the songs she wanted to sing. The songs from The Rosemary Clooney Show have been released for the first time on CD.

They're not Rosemary Clooney's best-known songs, but tunes, nevertheless, that thrilled millions of viewers on the singer's hit television show in 1956 and 1957. My Blue Heaven was one. Dream was another.

Rosemary Clooney's love affair with the American popular songbook began in her native Kentucky, where she and her sister Betty began singing as a duo. The Clooney Sisters were a short-lived act, and Rosemary went on to New York alone to seek her fame and fortune. Work came quickly. In 1950, she recorded her first big hit, Beautiful Brown Eyes. More hits followed including Hey There, which sold more than three million copies. In 1953, she was on the cover of Time magazine, opening the door to three choice movie roles and The Rosemary Clooney Show.

The Rosemary Clooney Show only lasted two years, but in those two seasons, Rosemary sang from almost every great composer's songbook. Among these popular music masters were Irving Berlin, Johnny Mercer, Duke Ellington, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, and Hoagy Carmichael.

Guests stars on The Rosemary Clooney Show were numerous, and included Johnny Mercer, Bobby Troup, Mel Torme, the avant-garde vocal quartet The Hi-Lo's, actor Boris Karloff, and Clooney's husband, Oscar-winning actor Jose Ferrer. Rosemary

Clooney was still touring and recording in the years leading up to her death. She was 74 when she lost her battle with lung cancer on June 29, 2002. Earlier that year, she was presented a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.

03 April 2012

Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry

"Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry" (lyrics by Johnny Mercer, music by Victor Schertzinger) was published in 1941, and became a hit in 1942.

Arthur Murray (4 April 1895 – 3 March 1991) was a dance instructor and businessman, whose name is most often associated with the dance studio chain that bears his name.His pupils include Eleanor Roosevelt, the Duke of Windsor, John D. Rockefeller Jr., Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney, Barbara Hutton, Elizabeth Arden, Manuel L. Quezon, and Jack Dempsey. Arthur Murray was inducted into the National Museum of Dance C.V. Whitney Hall of Fame in 2007.

Victor L. Schertzinger (8 April 1888 - 26 October 1941) was an American composer, film director, film producer, and screenwriter. His films include Paramount on Parade (co-director, 1930), Something to Sing About (1937) with James Cagney, and the first two "Road" pictures Road to Singapore (1940) and Road to Zanzibar (1941). His two best-known songs are "I Remember You" and "Tangerine", both with lyrics by Johnny Mercer and both featured in Schertzinger's final film The Fleet's In (1942).

Despite the novelty status of "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry" it has been recorded by many people, including:
Marilyn Cooper

Jimmy Dorsey and Helen O'Connell

It has also been recorded by The King Sisters, by "Arthur Murray", and by Red Norvo with Mildred Bailey.

The most popular versions are by Jimmy Dorsey with Helen O'Connell, and by Red Norvo with Mildred Bailey.

Victor Schertzinger is also mentioned here: Johnny Mercer meets The Beatles

17 March 2012

Lynda Carter Earns Praise for Jazz Release 'At Last'

11 September 2009

She was known to millions as "Wonder Woman" on the 1970s television series of the same name. Actress and recording artist Lynda Carter is flying high again with the release of At Last.

Yes, as Lynda Carter proves, there is life after "Wonder Woman." But, with tracks like "You Send Me," her new album begs the question, when did she start singing?

Lynda Carter was introduced to country, blues and classical music while growing up in Phoenix, Arizona. She became a professional singer at age 14, but after winning the beauty pageant title of Miss World USA, she moved to Hollywood, California, to pursue an acting career.

While her role on "Wonder Woman" as the super heroine Princess Diana took her to dizzying new heights, Carter never gave up on singing. In fact, she performed two songs from her first solo album, Portrait, on an episode of her show.

Life after the series was even busier as Carter continued to work wonders in show business. She acted on stage and screen, hosted her own variety shows, endorsed cosmetics as a celebrity promotional model, contributed voice work for video games, and sang in nightclubs. At last, at age 58, Carter has a hit record.

When At Last jumped into the Top 10 on Billboard's Jazz Albums chart, Lynda Carter couldn't have been happier. She says, "As someone who started out as a singer, it's always been a dream to be on the Billboard chart."

Carter marked her return to singing with the role of Mama Thornton in a musical production of Chicago in London. Her recent tour of "An Intimate Evening with Lynda Carter" culminated with a performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

On At Last, Carter revives the works of Johnny Mercer, Jerome Kern, Harold Arlen, Helen Humes, and George and Ira Gershwin, as well as the Jimmy Harris melody "Cloudburst."

Lynda Carter performs "Blues In The Night" (Harold Arlen - Johnny Mercer) and "Come Rain Or Come Shine Medley" (Harold Arlen - Jerome Kern - Hammerstein - Johnny Mercer) on this album.

18 February 2012

Johnny Mercer meets The Beatles

The Beatles included the song "I Remember You" (music by Victor Schertzinger, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1941) in their 1962 live performances, with Paul McCartney on vocals. The Beatles' arrangement of "I Remember You" was a duplicate of the 1962 recording issued by Frank Ifield.

"P.S. I Love You" (music by Gordon Jenkins, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1934) has been recorded many times. Rosemary Clooney, Frank Sinatra, Kay Starr, among others.
In 1962, The Beatles recorded a Paul McCartney - John Lennon composition also titled "P.S. I Love You". McCartney was probably aware of the Mercer song. But you can't copyright a song title.
Producer Ron Richards: "I was originally a music publishing man, a plugger, so I knew someone had done a record with that title. I said to Paul [McCartney] 'You can have it as B-side, but not an A-side.'"

Mercer's biographer Gene Lees expressed annoyance at this duplicate title.

Johnny Mercer co-founded Capitol Records in 1942. The Beatles joined Capitol in 1963. Johnny was gone from Capitol by then.

Ringo Starr sang Johnny Mercer's 1944 song "Dream" (produced and arranged by George Martin) for his 1970 standards album Sentimental Journey.

Paul McCartney contacted Johnny Mercer in the 1970s in an attempt to write a song with Johnny. But Mercer was already ill and nearing the end of his life.

The 2012 Paul McCarney album Kisses On The Bottom includes "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" (music by Harold Arlen - lyrics by Johnny Mercer, 1944).

24 January 2012

Willie and Wynton Pay Tribute to Ray Charles

22 April 2011
Doug Levine

Many consider the late Ray Charles one of the greatest entertainers of all time. Two of his biggest fans are entertainment icons themselves, Willie Nelson and Wynton Marsalis. The pair pay tribute to their musical hero with “Here We Go Again: Celebrating The Genius Of Ray Charles.”

A Ray Charles classic from the 1960s, “Busted” features the unlikely vocal pairing of country veteran Willie Nelson and jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. Of course, Ray was a pioneer when it came to mixing musical genres, so it’s no surprise that these two modern innovators decided to join forces on a tribute album dedicated to the man known simply as the “Genius.”

This isn’t the first time Willie and Wynton performed together. In 2007, they collaborated on the Number One jazz album “Two Men With the Blues,” recorded live at Lincoln Center in New York City. Two years later, they teamed up again on their salute to Ray Charles, also recorded in concert at Lincoln Center. They were supported by a five-piece band and a special guest vocalist.

Ten-time Grammy winner Norah Jones joins the Ray Charles tribute on “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” Ray recorded a version of this Harold Arlen-Johnny Mercer hit for his 1959 album, “The Genius of Ray Charles.”

Norah also sings a duet with Willie Nelson on the title track “Here We Go Again,” as well as the ballads “Cryin’ Time,” and “You Don’t Know Me.” All three stars, Willie, Wynton and Norah, sing the Ray Charles favorites “What I’d Say” and “Hit The Road Jack.”

 Ray Charles is mentioned in passing on these pages:

All-Star Recording Pays Tribute to Johnny Mercer

Tony Bennett