Playwrite Frank Gagliano

 

 

 

 Johnny Mercer

John Herndon "Johnny" Mercer                       (November 18, 1909 – June 25, 1976): 

Mercer’s stunning catalogue of songs include: DAYS OF WINE AND ROSES, MOON RIVER, ONE FOR MY BABY (AND ONE MORE FOR THE ROAD), ON THE ATCHESON, TOPEKA AND THE SANTA FE, IN THE COOL, COOL COOL OF THE EVENING (all Academy Award winners), BLUES IN THE NIGHT, FOOLS RUSH IN, I REMEMBER YOU, LAURA,  I’M OLD FASHIONED, THAT OLD BLACK MAGIC, DREAM, SKYLARK, SOMETHING’S GOTTA GIVE, OUT OF THIS WORLD, GI JIVE, SATIN DOLL, MIDNIGHT SUN, CHARADE, AUTUMN LEAVES—about 1500 songs in all. 

  If you’re an enthusiast, devotee (and all-around nut -- as I am), of JOHNNY MERCER, the great American legendary lyricist and composer . . .and of the other genius composers and lyricists of the golden age of American song. . . (Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Cole Porter, George and Ira Gershwin, Rodgers and Hart, Harold Arlen, Yip Harberg, Frank Loesser, Harry Warren, Jimmy Van Heusen, Jule Styne, and so, so, so many others)   . . .you’ll want to visit this page often.

 

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New Essay

 

“ON MERCER: Rediscovering The Genius of the American Songwriter, Johnny Mercer, Giant Of The Great American Songbook [Up Close, Moving and Personal]”

 

   

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SOME QUOTES

 "Mercer was the greatest lyricist in the history of the English language.” Alan J. Lerner

“Johnny Mercer is the greatest American lyricist alive. I could no more write a lyric like one of his than fly. It’s so Americana.” Oscar Hammerstein II.

“As far as lyric writers are concerned, I don’t think
there’s anybody near him.” Composer Jimmy Van Heusen.

“He was, in my opinion, the finest lyricist in the English language, an exquisite craftsman and the one with the most personal voice.” Critic and Mercer Biographer Gene Lees, “Singers and The Song.”


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MERCER SINGS RARE DEMOS

FROM HIS "FOXY" SCORE

 

[FROM WIKIPEDIA: Foxy (starring the old cowardly lion himself, Bert Lahr) is a musical with a book by Ian McLellan Hunter and Ring Lardner, Jr., lyrics by Johnny Mercer, and music by Robert Emmett Dolan. Based on Ben Jonson's Volpone, it transports the original play's setting of early-17th century Renaissance Venice to the Yukon during the gold rush of 1898.The Broadway production, directed by Robert Lewis and choreographed by Jack Cole, opened on February 16, 1964 at the Ziegfeld Theatre, where it ran for 72 performances.  Foxy's failure was due less to critical reaction, which for the most part was favorable, and more to Merrick's lack of interest in the project. His "Hello, Dolly!" had opened the month before, and he was too involved with its immediate success to devote any time or money to promoting the lesser effort. Additionally, the Ziegfeld was off the beaten Broadway track, losing walk-in business to venues more centrally located in the theatre district. Bert Lahr won the Tony Award for Best Actor in a Musical, and Marie was nominated as Best Featured Actress in a Musical RCA Victor, which had acquired the cast album rights, opted not to release an original cast recording.]

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(While Mercer did not consider himself to be a born-to-the-manor (integrated) musical theatre lyricist, he kept at it and could often write show stoppers with the best of them)  Johnny Mercer sings (demo) "Rolling In Gold".mp3  

("Talk To Me Baby" is the only song from "FOXY" that broke out and became a standard) Frank Sinatra Sings: "Talk To Me Baby".mp3                                                                   

And HERE is the late, great, Nancy LaMott's version of "Talk To Me Baby".mp3                                                 

The following two tracks ("Bon Vivant" and "Money Isn't Everything") are performed by Mercer (in demos), and from an actual FOXY show performance by Bert Lahr. Where and how the live performance was recorded is a mystery (since there was never a commercial recording made, but there is no question that they were recorded from a distance.)  

"Bon Vivant," Mercer Sings FOXY Demo.mp3  

"Bon Vivant," Bert Lahr (from FOXY live performance).mp3

  "Money Isn't Everything,"Mercer FOXY Demo.mp3

"Money Isn't Everything," Bert Lahr (from FOXY live performance).mp3 

 

MORE FOXY TRACKS TO FOLLOW.   

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THE GENE LEES

CORRESPONDENCE

   

  

  AS I WROTE IN MY ESSAY ON MERCER: 

My Johnny Mercer journey started well, restarted sometime in the 1990s, when I first read Roses In The Morning, browsing in a bookstore in Pittsburgh. This was the title of an essay in Gene Leess book, Singers and The Song. (Oxford Press, 1987). The title of the essay referred to songwriter Johnny Mercers ritual of sending a dozen roses in the morning to people Mercer had insulted the night before, when he was very drunk.

But Gene Leess Roses In The Morning essay was only peripherally about Mercers mean-drunk episodes. He was, writes Lees, in my opinion, the finest lyricist in the English language, an exquisite craftsman and the one with the most personal voice. (page 44). Gene Lees then goes on to analyze the lyrics of two Mercer songs I thought I had always known: I Remember You (music, Victor Schertzinger), and I Thought About You (Jimmy Van Heusen, music). But Lees explicates the lyrics like the poem-jewels they are, and I suddenly realize their artistic worth, how they fit word to musical notation and how they tell the musics story -- and I see and hear them, as if for the first time.

 For most of my life, while Mercer was in my musical DNA, I had taken him, his songs, his singing, for granted. And Gene Lees’s Roses In The Morning  essay in Singers and The Song,made me revisit the Mercer canon, and in a new way.

"As a result of my reading the Roses In The Morningessay, I was also moved to write Gene Lees at his home in Ojai, CA. A correspondence followed between us followed by a collaboration on various projects followed by his falling out with me.

 

  

Gene  

FIRST, THE GENE LEES CORRESPONDENCE,

WHERE GENE AND I GOT AQUAINTED

BEFORE I BROUGHT HIM TO

CARNEGIE MELLON UNIVERSITY AND WEST VIRGINIA UNIVERSITY

Aug-Oct 1992

  Lees/Gagliano Letters (pdf for easy download)

  AND HERE ARE SOME  

  Gene Lees Book Covers (pdf for easy download)

 

  

 

  

                               

 

 

ALSO COMING

How to use the Johnny Mercer Lyric (and many lyrics of the other great lyricists of the golden age of American song) in all Theatre Program disciplines — and how to add the American Songbook history and practicum to advanced musical theatre curriculums.