contents

jazz
 
New Johnny Mercer Song Debuts 'You're in Savannah' Sung by Michael Feinstein

Michael Feinstein sings new Johnny Mercer song, "You're in Savannah" at the Johnny Mercer Statue Unveiling in Savannah's Ellis Square on November 18. The story behind the unpublished lyrics put to music in 2009 by Richard Sherman.

What started June 7, 2006 is finally a reality. Savannahian Sandy Traub discovered Johnny Mercer's unpublished lyrics, "You're in Savannah", on the Georgia State University's website. Last year when the Savannah-based Johnny Mercer Centennial Committee (JMCC) began planning activities, Sandy volunteered as the marketing and PR consultant to the Centennial Committee. She remembered the "You're in Savannah" lyrics, and brought them to the attention of Centennial chair Dianne S. Thurman.

"Through Mr. Mercer's own words he could very personally introduce Savannah, beginning in media and press materials, " Sandy shares. "It was my dream also, of course, that the lyrics might one day be put to music."

The JMCC liked the idea. Mrs. Thurman approached the Johnny Mercer Foundation, requesting legal permission to use the draft lyrics on all of the Centennial's major marketing pieces. With permission received, the JMCC then published those lyrics on the cover of the Centennial Media Kit.

During the spring of 2009, Mrs. Thurman introduced the lyrics to London producer Ken Barnes during a trip to Atlanta when he was given a copy of the JMCC Media Kit.
Enthusiastically, Mr. Barnes wanted to find someone to put Johnny Mercer's unpublished words to music. Quietly behind the scenes, Mr. Barnes and Mrs. Thurman began working to make that it a reality.

Meanwhile, the Centennial's one-page information sheet - featuring the lyrics and Johnny Mercer's New York City "fire hydrant" photo - was delivered to Erica Backus, Director of Public Relations, Savannah Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. Miss Backus distributed the Centennial Committee's flyer during Savannah-Chatham Day at the state capitol in Atlanta.

Through the Centennial Committee's active outreach to the national and regional media, Johnny Mercer's lyrics to You're in Savannah were now made available publicly, while the Johnny Mercer Foundation retained all rights. In September 2009, again the media kit cover including Johnny's "You're in Savannah" lyrics became the featured cover of the JMCC's commissioned Johnny Mercer Commemorative Booklet, published by Savannah Magazine in the September/October 2009 issue.

"Wonderful man that Ken Barnes is, he didn't forget the wishes of the Savannah Centennial Committee to put music to You're in Savannah, Dianne Thurman comments. "In the fall of 2009, through Ken Barnes's friendship with Disney's Howard Green, and Howard's friendship with Academy Award -winning composer Richard Sherman, the music to "You're in Savannah" was created."

"The next step was getting permission from the Johnny Mercer Foundation for the new music to be used by JMCC in time for the unveiling of the Johnny Mercer life-size bronze statue in Savannah on November 18, 2009. At the October 2009 board meeting of the Johnny Mercer Foundation (held in Savannah), treasurer John Marshall requested permission for JMCC to receive permission that music be composed and the song performed at the Johnny Mercer statue unveiling. The Foundation graciously agreed that once legal requirements were met, that the Centennial Committee would be the first to introduce the song, You're in Savannah, " Mrs. Thurman advises.

While composing the music, Richard Sherman inserted an additional stanza. When Dianne Thurman and Johnny Mercer's niece, Nancy Gerard, reviewed the new stanza, each woman independently suggested that "Live Oak trees" replace Mr. Sherman's "Sycamore trees" lyrics. "When visitors drive down Savannah's breathtaking oak-lined streets, it will become clear that it is the grand Live Oaks dripping in Spanish Moss that define Savannah's forest city, " adds Mrs. Thurman. The lyrics were modified and the music was approved by the Foundation.

In the end, Dianne S. Thurman wanted someone special to perform You're in Savannah as a surprise to the Mercer family and the City of Savannah. "I asked Ken Barnes if it was appropriate to approach Michael Feinstein to record the new song exclusively for the statue unveiling in Savannah on Wednesday, November 18, 2009. Even though Mr. Feinstein had a full schedule that included his tour in the U.K. at the London Palladium, hosting and performing at the gala tribute to Johnny Mercer by the Academy of Motion Picture Film and Sciences in Hollywood, he graciously agreed to find time to make the recording. Mr. Feinstein and Ken Barnes met in London. A flurry of emails followed between Savannah, London, California and New York, with Dianne Thurman receiving the Feinstein recording in November 2009 in time for the Johnny Mercer statue unveiling on November 18, 2009.

Ken Barnes shares that he doesn't know of any other city that has a namesake-song written by an Academy Award -winning lyricist, an Academy Award -winning composer, and performed by a multi-platinum selling, five-time Granny nominated entertainer.

"We've come full circle, " says Sandy Traub, who discovered the unpublished lyrics. "It is as though Johnny Mercer tucked away those dear lyrics waiting for this memorable occasion in his hometown, over 30 years after his death. In "You're in Savannah", Johnny Mercer perfectly captured the essence of Savannah, then and now."

In honoring Johnny Mercer and promoting the formerly unpublished lyrics and new song, the Savannah-based Johnny Mercer Centennial Committee is very pleased to be the initial force for bringing to life "You're in Savannah!" - another great work from Johnny Mercer - especially in this year as we celebrate his centennial.

In cooperation with the City of Savannah's Department of Cultural Affairs, The Johnny Mercer Centennial Committee is the umbrella organization promoting the life, lyrics and legacy of Johnny Mercer. Affectionately called "Savannah's Huckleberry Friend, " John Herndon Mercer is one of this southern city's most respected and famous native sons. During the 2009 Savannah Music Festival's Benefit Concert, Wynton Marsalis & the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra performed a commissioned arrangement by Ted Nash of the Mercer/Arlen classic Blues in the Night in celebration of the Johnny Mercer Centennial. For more information contact Dianne S. Thurman, 912-925-2214 or 912-658-3959; or Sandy Traub.

One of America's most popular songwriters, singers and record executives Johnny Mercer (November 18, 1909 June 25, 1976) was born in Savannah, Georgia and is buried in Savannah's Bonaventure Cemetery. The legendary Savannahian promoted his birthplace and the State of Georgia simply through his heartfelt love and enthusiasm for his "home town."

Drawing often from his Savannah upbringing, the storytelling Johnny Mercer spun poetic short tales that enliven Hollywood films, Broadway plays, and international festivals and cabaret clubs. Hooray for Hollywood (1937), written by Johnny Mercer and Richard Whiting, is an anthem in entertainment circles.

Mercer was one of America's most prolific songwriters, penning over 1, 700 songs, with 100 hits and nineteen Academy Award nominations. His four Academy Award winning songs are:

- "On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe" (1946) (music by Harry Warren) for The Harvey Girls;
- "In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening" (1951) (music by Hoagy Carmichael) for Here Comes the Groom;
- "Moon River" (1961) (music by Henry Mancini) for Breakfast at Tiffany's; and
- "Days of Wine and Roses" (1962) (music by Henry Mancini) for Days of Wine and Roses.





write your comments about the article :: 2009 Jazz News :: home page