Brief Biography

johnny mercer portrait piano songwriting

Portrait of Johnny Mercer, New York, N.Y., between 1946 and 1948, From the Library of Congress William P. Gottlieb Collection.

Johnny Herndon Mercer (1909-1976) was one of the most popular and successful songwriters of the 20th century and one of Georgia’s most well-known and talented native sons. He wrote more than 1,700 songs in his lifetime and sung and recorded many of them as well. Many of the songs Johnny wrote are still known and sung today;  they’ve become American standards.

Throughout his life, Johnny’s inspiration for many of his songs came from growing up in Savannah, Georgia. The history, beauty and charm of Georgia’s first city would follow Johnny as he moved to New York City and to Hollywood, California, singing and songwriting with celebrities such as Bing Crosby and Nat “King” Cole.

In addition to his prolific lyric writing, Johnny also was the founder and president of Capitol Records, using his musical skills to discover new talent and inspire performers to produce the best quality performances they could. He wrote songs for movies and for Broadway, and was nominated for a stunning 18 Academy Awards®, winning four Oscars® in his lifetime.

Johnny passed away at age 66, a relatively young age, especially for one so talented who brought so much beauty to the musical world. Johnny is a shining example of how a young man from a sleepy Georgia town in the early 20th century could go on to such great success and fame, but he always returned home to Savannah when he needed to escape the bustling city life in New York or Hollywood.


Continue to Growing Up in Savannah