All the Things You Are
"All the Things You Are" is a song composed by Jerome Kern with lyrics written by Oscar Hammerstein II. The song was written for the musical Very Warm for May and was introduced by Hiram Sherman, Frances Mercer, Hollace Shaw, Ralph Stuart, it appeared in the film Broadway Rhythm. Its verse is sung now, but the chorus has become a favorite with singers and jazz musicians; the chorus is a 36-measure AA2BA3 form with two twists on the usual 32-bar AABA song-form: A2 transposes the initial A section down a fourth, while the final A3 section adds an extra four bars. Note: The harmonic analysis demonstrates a functional chord progression using the circle of fifths; this type of progression relies on the roots of the chords being a 4th apart. When you take the main key of measures 1 to 5 as A flat major the chords can be considered as vi - ii - V - I - IV in A flat major. Using a delay cycle, Db being the tri-tone substitution for G7, the last 3 bars of the A section modulates to the key of C major temporarily.
The chords of the A2 section echo those of the initial eight measure A section, except the roots of each chord in the initial A section are lowered by a perfect 4th interval. So Fmi7 in A becomes Cmi7 in A 2, Bbmi7 becomes Fmi7, Eb7 becomes Bb7, etc. In the same vein, the melody sung over A2 is identical to the A section melody except every pitch of every melody note is lowered by a perfect 4th interval; the bridge of this piece, section B, is another example of a functional chord progression in the keys of G major and E Major. In bars 1-4 of this section, it is a simple ii - V -. Using a common chord substitution the F#º chord in measure 5 functions as viiº in the key of G major and iiº in the key of E minor. Using simple modal mixture, the B7 chord is used to bridge us from E minor to E major in bar 7; the first 5 measures of A3 are identical to the initial 8 measure long A2 sections. In the 6th measure, A3 takes a new path that does not come to an end until the 12 measure of the section; the modulations in this song are unusual for a pop song of the period and present challenges to a singer or improviser, including a semitone modulation that ends each A section, a striking use of enharmonic substitution at the turnaround of the B section, where the G# melody note over a E major chord turns into an A-flat over the F minor 7th of measure 1 of section A3.
Because of its combination of a strong melody and challenging but logical chord structure, "All the Things You Are" has become a popular jazz standard. Its changes have been used for such contrafact tunes as "Bird of Paradise" by Charlie Parker, "Prince Albert" by Kenny Dorham, "Boston Bernie" by Dexter Gordon. "Thingin'" by Lee Konitz introduced a further harmonic twist by transposing the chords of the second half of the tune by a tritone. The verses start with these lines: Time and again I've longed for adventure Something to make my heart beat the faster What did I long for, I never knew Ella Fitzgerald - Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Jerome Kern Song Book Chet Baker Dave Brubeck with Anthony Braxton and Lee Konitz – All the Things We Are Larry Coryell – Shining Hour Tommy Dorsey with Jack Leonard Stan Getz Dizzy Gillespie with Charlie Parker Johnny Griffin with John Coltrane and Lee Morgan – A Blowing Session Keith Jarrett – Standards Vol. 1 Modern Jazz Quartet Brad Mehldau – Art of the Trio 4: Back at the Vanguard Gerry Mulligan – Mullenium Charlie Parker with Miles Davis – "Bird of Paradise" Art Pepper Sonny Rollins and Coleman Hawkins with Paul Bley – Sonny Meets Hawk!
Gonzalo Rubalcaba with Charlie Haden and Paul Motian – Discovery Bud Shank Artie Shaw with Helen Forrest Woody Shaw with Bobby Hutcherson – Night Music Lennie Tristano Phil Woods with Vincent Herring and Antonio Hart – Alto Summit List of 1930s jazz standards "All the Things You Are" for Jazz Guitar Lyrics of this song at MetroLyrics
Verve Records known as The Verve Music Group, founded in 1956 by Norman Granz, is home to the world's largest jazz catalogue and includes recordings by artists such as Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone, Stan Getz and Billie Holiday, among others. It absorbed the catalogues of Granz's earlier labels, Clef Records, founded in 1946, Norgran Records, founded in 1953, material licensed to Mercury Records. Verve served as the original home of rock music acts such as The Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention; the restructured Verve Records is now part of the Verve Label Group, owned by Universal Music Group. This company is home to historic imprints including Verve Forecast Records, Impulse! Records and Decca Records. Norman Granz created Verve to produce new recordings by Ella Fitzgerald; the catalog grew throughout the 1950s and 1960s to include Charlie Parker, Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Billie Holiday, Oscar Peterson, Ben Webster, Lester Young. By 1960, Granz neared retirement. Milton Rudin, his attorney, knew that Sinatra wanted his own label.
Sinatra and Granz made a handshake deal, but negotiations broke down over price and Sinatra's desire that Granz remain head of the label. Granz sold Verve to MGM in 1961. Sinatra hired Mo Ostin, an executive at Verve, to run it. At Verve, Creed Taylor was made head producer. Taylor adopted a more commercial approach, he brought bossa nova to America with the release of Jazz Samba by Stan Getz and Charlie Byrd, Getz/Gilberto, Rain Forest by Walter Wanderley. Verve's notable arrangers included Oliver Nelson. According to Ogerman in Jazzletter, he arranged 60–70 albums for Verve from 1963–1967. In 1964, Taylor supervised the creation of a folk music subsidiary named Verve Folkways renamed Verve Forecast. Taylor left Verve in 1967 to form CTI Records. Aside from jazz, Verve's catalogue included the Righteous Brothers, the Velvet Underground, Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention, Rare Earth, the Blues Project, as well as a series of "Sound Impressions of an American on Tour" records, produced in cooperation with Esquire Magazine.
While the Velvet Underground's records did not sell well they went on to become a major influence in independent rock music. Their debut album, The Velvet Underground & Nico, is hailed as one of the greatest records of all time while their second album, White Light/White Heat, has a major cult following for its bold, noisy sound and poetically provocative lyricism. In the 1970s, Verve became part of PolyGram, incorporating the Mercury/EmArcy jazz catalog, which Philips, part owners of PolyGram, had earlier acquired. Verve Records became the Verve Music Group after PolyGram was merged with Seagram's Universal Music Group in 1999; the jazz holdings from the merged companies were folded into this sub-group.in 1990, British group Talk Talk signed to Polydor after conflicts with their previous label EMI regarding a lack of commercial allure on their fourth album, Spirit of Eden. Their fifth and final album, Laughing Stock, was released through Verve on September 16, 1991 and, while being divisive at the time, has since been reconsidered by critics and fans as their masterpiece and a precursor to the post-rock movement.
In the 1990s, as part of PolyGram Classics and Jazz, Verve signed Herbie Hancock, Wayne Shorter, Joe Henderson, Roy Hargrove, John Scofield, Shirley Horn, Betty Carter, Abbey Lincoln, Chris Botti, Jeff Lorber, Gino Vannelli, Art Porter, Will Downing, Incognito. When Universal and Polygram merged in 1998, Verve's holdings were merged with Universal's GRP Recording Company to become Verve Music Group. After forays into Americana and adult contemporary music, Verve was corporately aligned with Universal Music Enterprises, was no longer a stand-alone label within UMG; the Verve imprint itself manages much of the jazz catalog that once belonged to PolyGram, while the Impulse! Records imprint manages the portion of Universal's catalog, acquired from ABC Records, which itself includes the jazz catalog of the Famous Music Group, once owned by Paramount Pictures/Gulf+Western, but, sold to ABC in 1974. Meanwhile, GRP manages the rest of MCA/Universal's jazz catalog, including releases once issued on the Decca and Chess labels.
The Verve Label Group has expanded its output beyond jazz to include crossover classical music, progressive pop and show tunes. In 2016, the newly-formed Verve Label Group appointed industry veteran Danny Bennett as its president and CEO. Official site Article about Creed Taylor
Norman Granz was an American jazz music impresario. Granz was a fundamental figure in American jazz from about 1947 to 1960, he was the founder of five record labels: Clef, Down Home and Pablo. Granz was acknowledged as "the most successful impresario in the history of jazz". Granz is known for his anti-racist position and for integrating audiences. Born in Los Angeles, Granz was the son of Jewish immigrants from Tiraspol. After school, he began work as a stock clerk on the Los Angeles stock exchange; when America joined the Second World War, he was drafted into the U. S. Army Air Force. Subsequently, he was posted to the Morale branch, the department charged with troops' entertainment", he emerged into the public view when he organised desegregated jam sessions at the Trouville Club in Los Angeles, which he expanded when he staged a memorable concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium in Los Angeles on Sunday, July 2, 1944, under the heading of "Jazz at the Philharmonic". The title of the concert, "A Jazz Concert at the Philharmonic Auditorium", had been shortened by the printer of the advertising supplements to "Jazz at the Philharmonic".
Only one copy of the first concert program is known to exist. Norman Granz had organised the first Jazz at the Philharmonic concert with about $300 of borrowed money. Known as JATP, the ever-changing group recorded and toured extensively, with Granz producing some of the first live jam session recordings to be distributed to a wide market. After several JATP concerts in Los Angeles in 1944 and 1945, Granz began producing JATP concert tours, from late fall of 1945 to 1957 in USA and Canada, from 1952 in Europe, they featured swing and bop musicians and were among the first high-profile performances to feature racially integrated bands. Granz cancelled some bookings rather than have the musicians perform for segregated audiences, he recorded many of the JATP concerts, from 1945 to 1947 sold/leased the recordings to Asch/Disc/Stinson Records. In 1948 Granz signed an agreement with Mercury Records for the promotion and the distribution of the JATP recordings and other recordings. After the agreement expired in 1953 he issued the JATP recordings and other recordings on Clef Records and Norgran Records.
Down Home Records was intended for traditional jazz works. Jazz at the Philharmonic ceased touring the United States and Canada, after the JATP concerts in the fall of 1957, apart from a North American Tour in 1967, he died on November 2001, aged 83, in Geneva, Switzerland. Many of the names that made history in jazz signed with one of Norman Granz's labels, including Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Louie Bellson, Benny Carter, Buck Clayton, Buddy DeFranco, Roy Eldridge, Herb Ellis, Tal Farlow, Stan Getz, Dizzy Gillespie, Lionel Hampton, Coleman Hawkins, Johnny Hodges, Billie Holiday, Illinois Jacquet, Hank Jones, Gene Krupa, Anita O'Day, Charlie Parker, Joe Pass, Oscar Peterson, Flip Phillips, Bud Powell, Buddy Rich, Sonny Stitt, Slim Gaillard, Art Tatum, Ben Webster and Lester Young. Granz saw to it. In the segregated society of the 1940s, he insisted on equal pay and accommodation for white and black musicians, he refused to take his hugely popular concerts to places which were segregated if he had to cancel concerts, thereby sacrificing considerable sums of money.
In 1944, Granz and Gjon Mili produced the jazz film Jammin' the Blues, which starred Lester Young, Illinois Jacquet, Barney Kessel, Harry Edison, Jo Jones, Sidney Catlett, Marlowe Morris, Marie Bryant, was nominated for an Academy Award. It was in 1956 that the popular singer Ella Fitzgerald joined Norman Granz's label. Granz had been her manager for some time, unified his activities under the common label of Verve Records. Granz became Fitzgerald's manager, remained so until the end of her career. Fitzgerald's memorable series of eight Songbooks, together with the duet series achieved wide popularity and brought acclaim to the label and to the artists. Granz was the manager of Oscar Peterson, another lifelong friend. In 1959, Norman Granz moved to Switzerland. In December 1960, Verve Records was sold to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. Granz founded his last label, Pablo Records, in 1973. Norman Granz fought many battles for his artists, many of whom were black. In 1955, in Houston, Texas, he removed signs that would have designated "White" and "Negro" seating areas in the auditorium where two concerts were to be performed by Ella Fitzgerald and Dizzy Gillespie.
Between the two shows Ella and Dizzy were found playing cards in the dressing room and arrested by local police. After some negotiations, the artists were allowed to perform the second show and were formally released. Granz insisted on fighting the charges, which cost him a $2,000 fine. Oscar Peterson recounted how Granz once insisted that white cabdrivers take his black artists as customers while a policeman pointed a loaded pistol at his stomach. Granz was among the first to pay white and black artists the same salary and to give them equal treatment in minor details, such as dressing rooms. Granz spearheaded the fight to desegregate the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, arguing that it was unfair that black artists could perform on the stages, but could not stay or gamble at the hotels, or enter through the front doors. Granz was interested in art, developing relationships with Pablo Picasso, whom he met in 1968. A detailed look at Granz, his career, his legacy can be fo
The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC; the instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era. Harps vary globally in many ways. In terms of size, many smaller harps can be played on the lap, whereas larger harps are quite heavy and rest on the floor. Different harps may use strings of catgut, metal, or some combination. While all harps have a neck and strings, frame harps have a pillar at their long end to support the strings, while open harps, such as arch harps and bow harps, do not.
Modern harps vary in techniques used to extend the range and chromaticism of the strings, such as adjusting a string's note mid-performance with levers or pedals which modify the pitch. The pedal harp is a standard instrument in the orchestra of the Romantic music era and the contemporary music era; the earliest harps and lyres were found in Sumer, 3500 BC, several harps were found in burial pits and royal tombs in Ur. The oldest depictions of harps without a forepillar can be seen adjacent to the Near East, in the wall paintings of ancient Egyptian tombs in the Nile Valley, which date from as early as 3000 BC; these murals show an instrument that resembles the hunter's bow, without the pillar that we find in modern harps. The chang flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 4000 BC, until the 17th century. Around 1900 BC arched harps in the Iraq–Iran region were replaced by angular harps with vertical or horizontal sound boxes. By the start of the Common Era, "robust, angular harps", which had become predominant in the Hellenistic world, were cherished in the Sasanian court.
In the last century of the Sasanian period, angular harps were redesigned to make them as light as possible. At the height of the Persian tradition of illustrated book production, such light harps were still depicted, although their use as musical instruments was reaching its end; the works of the Tamil Sangam literature describe the harp and its variants, as early as 200 BC. Variants were described ranging from 14 to 17 strings, the instrument used by wandering minstrels for accompaniment. Iconographic evidence in of the yaal appears in temple statues dated as early as 500 BC One of the Sangam works, the Kallaadam recounts how the first yaaḻ harp was inspired by an archer's bow, when he heard the musical sound of its twang. Another early South Asian harp was the ancient veena; some Samudragupta gold coins show of the mid-4th century AD show the king Samudragupta himself playing the instrument. The ancient veena survives today in the form of the saung harp still played there; the harp was popular in ancient China and neighboring regions, though harps are extinct in East Asia in the modern day.
The Chinese konghou harp is documented as early as the Spring and Autumn period, became extinct during the Ming Dynasty. A similar harp, the gonghu was played in ancient Korea, documented as early as the Goguryeo period. Harps are triangular and made of wood. Strings are made of gut or wire replaced in the modern day by nylon, or metal; the top end of each string is secured on the crossbar or neck, where each will have a tuning peg or similar device to adjust the pitch. From the crossbar, the string runs down to the sounding board on the resonating body, where it is secured with a knot, it is the distance between the tuning peg and the soundboard, as well as tension and weight of the string, which decide the pitch of the string. The body is hollow, when a taut string is plucked, the body resonates, projecting sound; the longest side of the harp is called the column or pillar, though some earlier harps, such as a "bow harp", lack a pillar. On most harps the sole purpose of the pillar is to hold up the neck against the great strain of the strings.
On harps which have pedals, the pillar is a hollow column and encloses the rods which adjust the pitches, which are levered by pressing pedals at the base of the instrument. On harps of earlier design, a given string can play only a single note without retuning. In many cases this means such a harp can only play in one key at a time and must be manually retuned to play in another key. Various remedies to this limitation evolved: the addition of extra strings to cover chromatic notes, addition of small levers on the crossbar which when actuated raise the pitch of a string by a set interval, or use of pedals at the base of the instrument which change the pitch of a string when pressed with the foot; these solutions increase the versatility of a harp at the cost of adding complexity and expense. While the angle and bow harps held popularity
DownBeat is an American magazine devoted to "jazz and beyond", the last word indicating its expansion beyond the jazz realm which it covered in previous years. The publication was established in 1934 in Illinois, it is named after the "downbeat" in music called "beat one", or the first beat of a musical measure. DownBeat publishes results of annual surveys of both its readers and critics in a variety of categories; the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame includes winners from both the readers' and critics' poll. The results of the readers' poll are published in the December issue, those of the critics' poll in the August issue. Popular features of DownBeat magazine include its "Reviews" section where jazz critics, using a'1-Star to 5-Star' maximum rating system, rate the latest musical recordings, vintage recordings, books. DownBeat was established in 1934 in Illinois. In September 1939, the magazine announced that its circulation had increased from "a few hundred five years ago to more than 80,000 copies a month", that it would change from monthly to fortnightly from the following month.
In April 1979, DownBeat went to a monthly schedule for the first time since 1939. DownBeat was named Jazz Publication of the Year in 2016 and 2017 by the Jazz Journalists Association; the DownBeat Jazz Hall of Fame's current membership, by year, is listed in the following table. The Readers' Poll began in 1952, the Critics' Poll in 1961, the Veterans Committee in 2008. 2008: Jo Jones, Jimmie Lunceford, Erroll Garner, Harry Carney, Jimmy Blanton 2009: Oscar Pettiford, Tadd Dameron 2010: Baby Dodds, Chick Webb, Philly Joe Jones, Billy Eckstine 2011: Paul Chambers 2012: Gene Ammons, Sonny Stitt 2013: Robert Johnson 2014: Bing Crosby, Dinah Washington 2015: Muddy Waters 2016: Hoagy Carmichael 2017: Eubie Blake, George Gershwin, Herbie Nichols 2018: Marian McPartland The Mary Lou Williams Women in Jazz Award International Association for Jazz Education Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award BBC Jazz Awards NEA Jazz Masters Benny Heller Down Beat website "About Down Beat: A History As Rich As Jazz" The Jazz Journalists Association Lifetime Achievement Award Nesuhi Ertegun Jazz Hall of Fame Arts For Art Lifetime Achievement Award NAMM Oral History Interview with Kevin Maher January 25, 2014 DownBeat Critics Poll Archives at Acclaimed Music Forums
Jerome David Kern was an American composer of musical theatre and popular music. One of the most important American theatre composers of the early 20th century, he wrote more than 700 songs, used in over 100 stage works, including such classics as "Ol' Man River", "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man", "A Fine Romance", "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", "The Song Is You", "All the Things You Are", "The Way You Look Tonight", "Long Ago" and "Who?". He collaborated with many of the leading librettists and lyricists of his era, including George Grossmith Jr. Guy Bolton, P. G. Wodehouse, Otto Harbach, Oscar Hammerstein II, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Ira Gershwin and E. Y. Harburg. A native New Yorker, Kern created dozens of Broadway musicals and Hollywood films in a career that lasted for more than four decades, his musical innovations, such as 4/4 dance rhythms and the employment of syncopation and jazz progressions, built on, rather than rejected, earlier musical theatre tradition. He and his collaborators employed his melodies to further the action or develop characterization to a greater extent than in the other musicals of his day, creating the model for musicals.
Although dozens of Kern's musicals and musical films were hits, only Show Boat is now revived. Songs from his other shows, are still performed and adapted. Many of Kern's songs have been adapted by jazz musicians to become standard tunes. Kern was born in New York City, on Sutton Place, in what was the city's brewery district, his parents were Henry Kern, a Jewish German immigrant, Fannie Kern née Kakeles, an American Jew of Bohemian parentage. At the time of Kern's birth, his father ran a stable. Kern grew up on East 56th Street in Manhattan, he showed an early aptitude for music and was taught to play the piano and organ by his mother, an accomplished player and teacher. In 1897, the family moved to New Jersey, where Kern attended Newark High School, he wrote songs for the school's first musical, a minstrel show, in 1901, for an amateur musical adaptation of Uncle Tom's Cabin put on at the Newark Yacht Club in January 1902. Kern left high school before graduation in the spring of his senior year in 1902.
In response, Kern's father insisted that his son work with him instead of composing. Kern, failed miserably in one of his earliest tasks: he was supposed to purchase two pianos for the store, but instead he ordered 200, his father relented, in 1902, Kern became a student at the New York College of Music, studying the piano under Alexander Lambert and Paolo Gallico, harmony under Dr. Austin Pierce, his first published composition, a piano piece, At the Casino, appeared in the same year. Between 1903 and 1905, he continued his musical training under private tutors in Heidelberg, returning to New York via London. For a time, Kern worked as a rehearsal pianist in Broadway theatres and as a song-plugger for Tin Pan Alley music publishers. While in London, he secured a contract from the American impresario Charles Frohman to provide songs for interpolation in Broadway versions of London shows, he began to provide these additions in 1904 to British scores for An English Daisy, by Seymour Hicks and Walter Slaughter, Mr. Wix of Wickham, for which he wrote most of the songs.
In 1905, Kern contributed the song "How'd you like to spoon with me?" to Ivan Caryll's hit musical The Earl and the Girl when the show transferred to Chicago and New York in 1905. He contributed to the New York production of The Catch of the Season, The Little Cherub and The Orchid, among other shows. From 1905 on, he spent long periods of time in London, contributing songs to West End shows like The Beauty of Bath and making valuable contacts, including George Grossmith Jr. and Seymour Hicks, who were the first to introduce Kern's songs to the London stage. In 1909 during one of his stays in England, Kern took a boat trip on the River Thames with some friends, when the boat stopped at Walton-on-Thames, they went to an inn called the Swan for a drink. Kern was much taken with the proprietor's daughter, Eva Leale, working behind the bar, he wooed her, they were married at the Anglican church of St. Mary's in Walton on October 25, 1910; the couple lived at the Swan when Kern was in England. Kern is believed to have composed music for silent films as early as 1912, but the earliest documented film music which he is known to have written was for a twenty-part serial, Gloria's Romance in 1916.
This was one of the first starring vehicles for Billie Burke, for whom Kern had earlier written the song "Mind the Paint", with lyrics by A. W. Pinero; the film is now considered lost. Another score for the silent movies, followed in 1919. Kern was one of the founding members of ASCAP. Kern's first complete score was Broadway's The Red Petticoat, one of the first musical-comedy Westerns; the libretto was by Rida Johnson Young. By World War I, more than a hundred of Kern's songs had been used in about thirty productions Broadway adaptations of West End and European shows. Kern contributed two songs to To-Night's another Rubens musical, it went on to become a hit in London. The best known of Kern's songs from this period is "They Didn't Believe Me", a hit in the New York version of the Paul Rubens and Sidney Jones musical, The Girl from Utah, for which Kern wrote five songs. Kern's song, with four beats to a bar, departed from the customary waltz-rhythms of E
John Herndon Mercer was an American lyricist and singer. He was a record label executive who co-founded Capitol Records with music industry businessman Buddy DeSylva and Glenn E. Wallichs, he is best known as a Tin Pan Alley lyricist, but he composed music. He was a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as songs written by others. From the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, many of the songs Mercer wrote and performed were among the most popular hits of the time, he wrote the lyrics including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, won four Best Original Song Oscars. Mercer was born in Georgia, his father, George Anderson Mercer, was a prominent attorney and real-estate developer, his mother, Lillian Elizabeth, George Mercer's secretary and second wife, was the daughter of a Croatian immigrant father and a mother with Irish ancestry. Lillian's father was a merchant seaman who ran the Union blockade during the U. S. Civil War. Mercer was George's fourth son, first by Lillian.
His great-grandfather was Confederate General Hugh Weedon Mercer and he was a direct descendant of American Revolutionary War General Hugh Mercer, a Scottish soldier-physician who died at the Battle of Princeton. Mercer was a distant cousin of General George S. Patton; the construction of Mercer House in Savannah was started by General Hugh Weedon Mercer in 1860. Neither the General, nor Mercer himself lived there, his mother's father was born in Lastovo, Croatia in 1834 to mother Ivana Cucevic and father Marijo Dundovic. Mercer liked music as a small child and attributed his musical talent to his mother, who would sing sentimental ballads. Mercer's father sang old Scottish songs, his aunt told him he was humming music when he was six months old and she took him to see minstrel and vaudeville shows where he heard "coon songs" and ragtime. The family's summer home "Vernon View" was on the tidal waters and Mercer's long summers there among mossy trees, saltwater marshes, soft, starry nights inspired him years later.
Mercer's exposure to black music was unique among the white songwriters of his generation. As a child, Mercer had African-American playmates and servants, he listened to the fishermen and vendors about him, who spoke and sang in the dialect known as "Geechee", he was attracted to black church services. Mercer stated, "Songs always fascinated me more than anything." He had no formal musical training but was singing in a choir by six and at 11 or 12 he had memorized all of the songs he had heard and became curious about who wrote them. He once asked his brother who the best songwriter was, his brother said Irving Berlin, among the best of Tin Pan Alley. Despite Mercer's early exposure to music, his talent was in creating the words and singing, not in playing music, though early on he had hoped to become a composer. In addition to the lyrics that Mercer memorized, he wrote adventure stories, his attempts to play the trumpet and piano were not successful, he never could read musical scores with any facility, relying instead on his own notation system.
As a teenager in the Jazz Era, he was a product of his age. He hunted for records in the black section of Savannah and played such early black jazz greats as Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith, Louis Armstrong, his father owned the first car in town, Mercer's teenage social life was enhanced by his driving privilege, which sometimes verged on recklessness. The family would motor to the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina to escape the Savannah heat and there Mercer learned to dance and to flirt with Southern belles, his natural sense of rhythm helping him on both accounts. Mercer wrote a humorous song called "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry". Mercer attended the exclusive Woodberry Forest School in Virginia until 1927. Although not a top student, he was active in literary and poetry societies and as a humor writer for the school's publications. In addition, his exposure to classic literature augmented his rich store of vocabulary and phraseology, he began to scribble ingenious, sometimes strained, rhymed phrases for use.
Mercer was the class clown and a prankster, member of the "hop" committee that booked musical entertainment on campus. Mercer was somewhat of an authority on jazz at an early age, his yearbook stated, "No orchestra or new production can be authoritatively termed'good' until Johnny's stamp of approval has been placed upon it. His ability to'get hot' under all conditions and at all times is uncanny." Mercer began to write songs, an early effort being "Sister Susie, Strut Your Stuff", learned the powerful effect songs had on girls. Given his family's proud history and association with Princeton, New Jersey, Princeton University, Mercer was destined for school there until his father's financial setbacks in the late 1920s changed those plans, he went to work in his father's recovering business, collecting rent and running errands, but soon grew bored with the routine and with Savannah, looked to escape. Mercer moved to New York in 1928, when he was 19; the music he loved and blues, was booming in Harlem and Broadway was bursting with musicals and revues from George Gershwin, Cole Porter, Irving Berlin.
Vaudeville, though beginning to fade, was still a strong musical presence. Mercer's first few jobs were as a bit actor. Hole