“Headed for Big Things”

“He just couldn’t resist the music.”

Lillian Ciucevich Mercer, Johnny’s Mother

John Herndon Mercer, born on November 18, 1909 in Savannah, Georgia, grew up surrounded by music. As a toddler, both of his parents sang to him often and took him to see minstrel and vaudeville shows. As he grew, Johnny sang in church choirs, played the trumpet and the piano, and frequented Savannah dance halls. He was heavily influenced by the jazz music of his teenage years and by the vibrant African American music scene in the South. In fact, his deeply Southern upbringing would later give Johnny’s lyrics a unique down-home charm.