Album:Capitol Collectors Series
Johnny Mercer is best known as one of the most successful songwriters of all time and the founder of Capitol Records. But he also had success as a singer in the 40s. Strip Polka was his very first top ten hit single in 1942. He was born Sept. 18, 1909 in Savannah, GA. His father was a prominent attorney and Mercer got into black music through the children of his family's servants. He moved to New York in 1928 and started out as an bit actor while continuing to write songs. He gave a song to Eddie Cantor. Though Cantor didn't use the song, he encouraged Mercer to keep writing. He took a staff songwriting job at Miller Music and he finally had a hit in 1933 with Lazybones which he wrote with Hoagy Carmichael. Mercer had sung with the Paul Whiteman band and he returned there after Lazybones. Mercer moved to Hollywood in 1935 to write songs for movies. He started hanging around with Bing Crosby and this led to the hit song I'm An Old Cowhand from the 1936 film Rhythm On The Range followed by the hit Goody Goody. Then he worked for Warner Bros. and wrote songs like Too Marvelous For Words, Hooray for Hollywood and Jeepers Creepers. He got back into singing and hosted the Camel Caravan radio show featuring Benny Goodman. He continued to write and Blues In The Night was one of his biggest hits. Then he founded Capitol Records in 1942. One of the first things Mercer did was record himself. Strip Polka was his first release and it reached #7 on the pop charts. The song featured comic actor Phil Silvers and The Mellowaires on vocals with an orchestra conducted by Freddie Slack. Strip Polka was also a top ten hit for Alvino Rey, Kay Kyser and The Andrews Sisters. Mercer also scored hits with Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, On The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe and Personality. You can get them all on this budget comp. Mercer didn't record much after the 40s. But he continued to write hits like Moon River, I Wanna Be Around and Summer Wind. Johnny Mercer was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour and he died on June 25, 1976 at age 66. There's no doubt he would have continued to write hit songs as Paul McCartney wanted to work with him. Here's a video for Strip Polka by Johnny Mercer featuring Phil Silvers.