One of America’s most famous beloved songwriters, Johnny Mercer, was born in Savannah and is buried here. You know how a song lyric can get stuck in your head, playing over and over, and nothing seems to dislodge it? Co-founder of Capitol Records, founding president of the Songwriters Hall of Fame and author or co-author of over 1500 songs, Johnny Mercer’s lyrics and footprints are all over Savannah. Let’s follow them. The music mentioned here was written or co-written by Mercer.
The book and movie that put Savannah squarely on the map was Midnight In the Garden of Good and Evil (referred to as Midnight or The Book). If you haven’t read it or seen it, you might do so before embarking. The book was on the New York Times bestseller list for 216 weeks.The opening scene of the movie begins with a shot of Johnny Mercer’s grave, and most of the music was written by Mercer.
Hum a few bars of “Moon River” and begin at Ellis Square which boasts a bronze statue of Mercer. The Mercer family had a second home on Burnside Island on the Back River, which was later re-named Moon River, in his honor.
Poke your nose into some of the great shops and galleries in City Market and find your way to Belford’s for lunch. Maybe sip on a beer from the local Moon River Brewing Company.
After lunch go a few blocks to the Jepson Center to see the Bird Girl statue made famous by Midnight.
You’re feeling good; your belly is full; you’re in a beautiful city; and the lyrics to “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive” start to play in your head. Go to the Savannah History Museum to catch a glimpse of one of Johnny Mercer’s Oscar awards.
With a little Mercer history under your belt, visit the Mercer-Williams House. Johnny Mercer never lived in this house. It was designed for his great grandfather, who never lived in it either. One of the most beautiful houses in Savannah, it also became famous by Midnight.
Now it’s that time of day that Savannah people favor: cocktail time. The music of “Days of Wine and Roses” is swirling around in your thoughts. Take the Full Moon Tours “Spirits with Spirits Happy Hour Tour” and finish before dinner. You will visit four diverse drinking establishments while getting the scoop on history and hauntings.
We suggest the 17Hundred90 Inn and Restaurant for dinner and to spend the night. Don’t be surprised to hear “That Old Black Magic” playing softly.
A new day has dawned, and you can belt out the tune “Jeepers Creepers” to set the stage.
Make your way to Clary’s Cafe for breakfast. A scene from Midnight was filmed here, and the place became a favorite for the cast and crew.
Wipe the sugar crumbs off your face, leave a big tip, and get ready to enjoy “Midnight” the Book and Movie Tour which will take you around town and to Bonaventure Cemetery. When you find Mercer’s grave, remember that he wrote “And the Angels Sing” which includes the lyrics, “The angels sing the sweetest song I ever heard…Or am I breathing music into every word.” Johnny Mercer did breathe music into every word, and you may just hear the angels sing.
This itinerary can be accomplished, with the exception of a couple of blocks and the tours, by taking the free Savannah DOT shuttle bus.