Arts Society & Culture

Author to discuss book on popular lyricist at UGA event

Glenn Eskew

Georgia State history professor to give multimedia presentation on Southern songwriter

Athens, Ga. – Glenn T. Eskew, author of “Johnny Mercer, Southern Songwriter for the World,” will discuss the popular lyricist in a multimedia presentation May 28 at 4 p.m. in the auditorium of the University of Georgia Richard B. Russell Building Special Collections Libraries.

Eskew’s book is researched examination of the musician and was published by the University of Georgia Press, which is co-sponsoring the event with the UGA Libraries.

Mercer, who died in 1976, is known for songs including “Jeepers Creepers,” “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Sante Fe” and “Moon River.” He wrote at least 1,400 songs, was nominated for 19 Academy Awards and won four. Additionally, he was a co-founder of Capitol Records, through which he is credited with reviving the careers of such stars as Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Duke Ellington. Mercer was inducted into the Georgia Writers Hall of Fame at the University of Georgia Libraries in 2007.

Born in Savannah in 1909, Mercer left for New York, eventually landing in Hollywood, and used his childhood influences, including African-American music, and a love of jazz to create music with multicultural appeal.

“This engaging biography brims with fresh insights about Southern culture and its relationship to American music,” said editor Charles Reagan Wilson in the New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture. “Eskew reveals Johnny Mercer as a carrier of the South’s interracial culture to the nation and the world. The book is the most original and carefully documented contribution I have seen to understanding the role of a creative southerner in the global culture.”

Eskew is a history professor at Georgia State University, which holds Mercer’s personal papers and other related collections documenting his career as lyricist, composer, performer and businessman.

“No other songwriter appears as successfully involved in so many facets of America’s entertainment industry in the 20th century,” Eskew wrote.

A book signing and reception will follow the presentation. The event is open free to the public. Parking is available in the Hull Street parking deck adjacent to the building.

For more information, see the New Georgia Encyclopedia,