Mabel Mercer

Mabel Mercer


Mabel Mercer (February 3 1900 – April 20 1984) was an English-born cabaret singer who performed in the United States, Britain, and Europe with the greats in jazz and cabaret. She was a featured performer at Chez Bricktop in Paris, owned by the legendary hostess Bricktop, and performed in such clubs as Le Ruban Bleu, Tony's, the RSVP, the Carlyle, the St. Regis Hotel, and eventually her own room, the Byline Club. Among those who frequently attended Mercer's shows was Frank Sinatra, who made no secret of his emulating her phrasing and story-telling techniques.

Early life and career

Mercer was born in Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, England. Her mother was a young, white English music hall performer, and her father was a black American jazz musician whom Mabel never knew. At age fourteen, she left her convent school in Manchester, and toured Britain and Europe with her aunt in vaudeville and music hall engagements.

In 1928, she was an unknown member of the black chorus in the London production of Show Boat, but she had become the toast of Paris by the 1930s, with admirers who included Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Cole Porter.

When World War II broke out, she traveled to America to sing in the finest supper clubs in New York City. She also made many concert appearances across the U.S. In the late 1960s, she gave two legendary concerts with Bobby Short at Town Hall in New York City. Both were released by Atlantic Records: "Mabel Mercer & Bobby Short at Town Hall," in 1968, (Atlantic SD 2-604) and "Mabel Mercer & Bobby Short Second Town Hall Concert," in 1969 (Atlantic SD 2-605). In 1969, she made two appearances on the television program "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood".

Her original and reissued albums are collector's items. Atlantic Records reissued four of her early LPs in a boxed set in 1975, in honor of her 75th birthday. She was awarded Stereo Review Magazine's first Award for Merit, for her lifetime achievement and for "outstanding contributions to the quality of American musical life." This award was officially renamed the Mabel Mercer Award in 1984.

Late career

When Mercer returned on July 4. 1977 for her first performance in England in 41 years, the BBC filmed three evenings' performances and later broadcast it in a week-long late-night television program, a BBC first for an entertainer.

In 1978, "Midnight at Mabel Mercer's," her 1956 album on Atlantic, was praised as "one of the best recordings of the past twenty years" by Stereo Review. That same year, Mercer played at San Francisco's Club Mocambo to sold-out audiences, in celebration of her 78th birthday.


In January 1981, she was honored by the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York with "An American Cabaret," the only musical event of its kind at that point in the museum's history. Mercer was the first guest on Eileen Farrell's new program featuring great popular singers, on National Public Radio.

Mercer received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, America’s highest civilian medal, in 1983.

When President Ronald Reagan presented it to her in a ceremony at the White House, he called her "a singer's singer" and "a living testament to the artfulness of the American song". She also received two honorary Doctor of Music degrees: one from Boston's Berklee College of Music, the other from the New England Conservatory of Music.

The Mabel Mercer Foundation

In 1985, the Mabel Mercer Foundation was established with the efforts of her long-time friend and professional associate Donald K. Smith. This not-for-profit arts organization was formed to keep Mercer's memory alive, and to contribute to the art of cabaret performing by supporting artists and providing information resources. Its international activities include the debut of the London Cabaret Convention in 2004. The Foundation produced Noel Coward's 100th birthday celebration at Carnegie Hall, and also has a Young Person's Series to introduce young people to "The Great American Songbook" of popular classics.

External links

*Photos: [ The Mabel Mercer Foundation]
*imdb name|id=0580283|name=Mabel Mercer

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