Songwriter, Lyricist. Born in Savannah, Georgia, he attended the prep school Woodberry Forest in Virginia, but in 1927 the family's bankruptcy ended his college plans. He joined an amateur theatre troupe which placed first in the Amsterdam Roof Theater competition that year in New York. He publishing his first lyric, 'Out of Breath (and Scared to Death of You),' for a popular stage revue, 'The Garrick Gaieties.' In 1932, he won the Pontiac Youth of America Contest and appeared on band leader, Paul Whiteman's Kraft radio program; he went on to sing lead, write new songs for the band, and emcee their shows. Soon after, he met Hoagy Carmichael with whom he collaborated for 'Lazybones,' which he recorded with the Whiteman Orchestra on lead vocals, it became the first of many hits for the pair. In 1933, he moved to Hollywood where he wrote 'I'm an Old Cowhand,' for the feature film, 'Rhythm on the Range' (1936) in which he also appeared, but for which he received no screen credit. It did, however, lead to a Warner Brothers contract. In 1938 and 1939, he sang with the Benny Goodman Orchestra, and also scored with the songs 'Hooray For Hollywood' for the movie 'Hollywood Hotel' (1937), 'Jeepers Creepers' in 'Going Places' (1938), 'You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby' in 'Hard to Get' (1938), 'That Old Black Magic' in 'Star Spangled Rhythm' (1942), and 'Ac-Cen-Tchu-Ate the Positive' in 'Here Come the Waves' (1944). Other songs followed, including such standards as 'Blues in the Night,' 'One For My Baby,' 'Come Rain or Come Shine,' 'Autumn Leaves,' 'Tangerine,' and 'On The Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe,' which won him his first Academy Award. In 1940s, he hosted his own radio show, 'Johnny Mercer’s Music Shop,' and in 1942, co-founded Capitol Records. In 1951, 'In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening' from the film ' Here Comes the Groom,' won him his second Academy Award. In 1954, he wrote the lyrics for Gene de Paul's music in 'Seven Brides for Seven Brothers.' In 1961, he collaborated with Henry Mancini on 'Moon River' for the film, 'Breakfast at Tiffany's,' winning him his third Academy Award. The pair repeated their achievement the following year with 'Days of Wine and Roses, ' when he became the first lyricist to win four Oscars. He also contributed to the film scores for 'Charade' (1963), 'The Pink Panther (1963) 'The Great Race' (1965) 'Barefoot in the Park' (1967) and 'Darling Lili' (1970). He then traveled to London in order to work with André Previn on the score for 'The Good Companions' which opened at Her Majesty's Theatre in London in July 1974. It was to be his last show. A series of severe headaches led to a diagnosis of a brain tumor, and he died at age 66 due to complications following brain surgery. He is credited with writing or co-writing more than 1,500 songs over his career. In 1996, the United States Postal Service issued an American Commemoratives series stamp in his honor. He has a star on the Hollywood walk of fame at 1628 Vine Street. He was the great-great-great grandson of Revolutionary War Continental Army General Hugh Mercer, who was mortally wounded at the 1777 Battle of Princeton.
Bio by: Iola
“AND THE ANGELS SING”
Elizabeth Meltzer Meehan Mercer
1909–1994 (m. 1931)