In 1962, after Johnny Mercer snagged a Best Original Song Oscar for the Breakfast at Tiffany’s leitmotif, city elders changed the name of the Back River to Moon River in his honor. This month, civic leaders give another nod to the prolific songwriter, whose oeuvre included jazz, blues, and torch ballads such as “One for My Baby (and One More for the Road),” with a November 18 unveiling of a life-size statue in Ellis Square.
The unveiling marks the peak of a week of Mercer-related events, including the play Mister Mercer at the Lucas Theatre (November 13); a tribute concert at the Civic Center (November 15); “From West Broad Straight to MLK,” a program focusing on African American influences on Mercer’s music (November 16); and the opening of an exhibition of Mercer-inspired work at the Gallery (November 18–December 31). See johnnymercercentennial.com for a complete schedule. For a tangentially related excursion, visit the Mercer Williams House Museum (mercerhouse.com). Famous as the murder setting in Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, the home was built for Mercer’s great-grandfather, the Confederate general Hugh Mercer. War interrupted work on the house, and no Mercer ever lived there.
The historic Inn at Ellis Square (innatellissquare.com
) offers a prime view of the festivities and is just steps from City Market and other attractions. New boutique hotel Avia (aviahotels.com
) is offering a Johnny Mercer special that includes a room discount, a Mercer CD, and cocktails inspired by the crooner.
Elizabeth on 37th (elizabethon37th.net
) featured seasonal menus long before others jumped on the trend. Its Southern-influenced menu continues to garner accolades. Local fare is also the focus at Local 11 Ten (local11ten.com
), which Washington Post
critic Tom Sietsema recently called “perhaps the city’s most exciting place to eat and drink these days.” For a quiet bite in the historic district, pop into Express Cafe & Bakery (expresscafeandbakery.com
), family-owned for almost a quarter century and known for its egg dishes and breads and pastries made on-site.
Mercer Williams House; photo by Bob Calabrese