ARTworks celebrates the life of Johnny Mercer

in Arts by

A favorite son of Savannah and the Lowcountry, Johnny Mercer wrote lyrics for over 1,500 songs from the 1930’s through the 1960’s, including his iconic hit, Moon River which was featured in the 1961 movie Breakfast at Tiffanys. On Friday, October 24, two well-known local performers, Terry Herron and Penney Lynn Smith, will present “Moon River: The Life and Music of Johnny Mercer.” Mr. Herron is best known as a musical producer and singer from Hilton Head and Ms. Smith performs with The Sweetgrass Angels, the Swingtime Orchestra and her own jazz combo in and around the Beaufort area.

Johnny Mercer
Johnny Mercer

Whether you are a Johnny Mercer fan, a jazz fan, love American popular music, or are interested in the history and famous citizens of Savannah, this musical variety show has something for everyone. The performance includes many of Mercer’s best known songs like Summer Wind, Come Rain Or Come Shine, and of course, Moon River. In addition to the two vocalists, the show also features Rick Radcliff on piano and Randall Reese on saxophone, flute and clarinet.  According to lead vocalist Herron, “Mercer was a master with lyrics and his poetic, rhythmic, story-telling words cover an amazing span of emotions that are as relevant today as when he wrote them.”

In addition to music, the evening will also include a short film of Mercer performing his songs with fellow entertainment giants like Nat King Cole and Mel Torme, as well as commentary by Mercer authority, David Oppenheim, who will speak about Mercer’s life and answer questions from the audience.  Of particular interest to many will be Mercer’s background and early life in Savannah. Johnny Mercer was descended from a prestigious Savannah family, stretching back to colonial times. He was a choirboy at Christ Church and a student at the Chatham Academy. As the son of a wealthy family, he was exposed to all of the art and culture that the city offered, from African-American spirituals, to traveling musicals, cinema, and popular music of the Jazz Age. Mercer maintained a close relationship with his mother throughout his life and often cited Savannah and his time spent there as a major influence on his music and lyrics.

The performance will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, October 24 at ARTworks, 2127 Boundary Street, Beaufort, in the Beaufort Town Center shopping plaza. Tickets are $20 each and can be purchased online at www.beaufortcountyarts.com or by calling 843-379-2787.