2014 marks the 105th birthday of Johnny Mercer. It seems like only yesterday that he turned 100. It was on that occasion in 2009 that his lyrics were remembered and celebrated on television, radio and in cabarets from coast to coast. I’ll venture to guess that the “Johnny Mercer Centennial Birthday Bash” hosted by stage mother extraordinaire, Mrs. Trauma Flintstone at Martuni’s in San Francisco was one of the most raucously joyful of them all. The evening was notable not only for the non stop Mercer-mania, but for the debut of statuesque Erika Von Volkyrie, whose thick German accent added a fresh pathos to Mercer’s evergreen standard, “Autumn Leaves.”
Fräulein Von Volkyrie accompanied me on the piano for Mercer’s “Let That Be A Lesson To You” (music by Richard Whiting) from the 1937 movie, HOLLYWOOD HOTEL. If the film is remembered for anything, it is for introducing the world to the Whiting/Mercer show–biz anthem “Hooray For Hollywood.” Other songs from the film huddle in the shadow of this rousing perennial. While the lyrics to “Hooray For Hollywood” date the song with celebrity references from the thirties, “Let That Be A Lesson To You” goes way back to Columbus, Napoleon and the Old Testament with lyrics that will remain relevant as long as there are those who believe they are “too big to fail.”
To hear Janet and Erika performing Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting”s “Let That Be A Lesson To You” at the Martuni’s show, click the arrow at the top.
Experiment In Johnny…
My hypothesis was this: Out of a group of twelve or so people picked at random, at least one of them would be able to call forth a line from a Johnny Mercer song. They may not know when or where they heard it, but someone out of the bunch would be able to dislodge a fragment of Mercer. Deciding I would spend no more than twenty minutes on the project, I hit the street with my recorder one Sunday morning. To maximize the results in as little time as possible, I only stopped groups of two or more (except for the poor guy I cornered while he was eating a waffle.) The results can be found by clicking here. Street Interviews/ Johnny Mercer
The songs I asked about were just the tip of the iceberg!
Find a comprehensive list of songs by Johnny Mercer here: Songwriter’s Hall of Fame/JohnnyMercer
For more on Erika Von Volkyrie and Trauma Flintstone:
Thank you, Guy Sherman (aka Aural Fixation)