Meet Mercer. He’s roughly 10 years old, a stray my husband and I found at an animal shelter in Madison, Wisconsin, in 2007. Much thought went into naming him.
We wanted a name with a connection to Big Band music. We considered and dismissed Benny (Goodman), Artie (Shaw), Hoagy (Carmichael), then started looking at last names: Basie, Dorsey, Herman. We settled on Mercer, mostly because of Johnny Mercer. The name also links to the jazz world’s Mercer Ellington, trumpeter, composer, and son of Duke.
Johnny Mercer was a composer and singer, but he’s best known as a lyricist who wrote conversational, sometimes slangy words to songs including “You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby”; “Skylark”; “On the Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe”; “Jeepers Creepers”; “Satin Doll.” An estimated fifteen hundred songs in total.
In looks and personality, Johnny Mercer and my cat have some similarities. Like Johnny, feline Mercer is thickly built with a broad, open face. Like Johnny, he’s affable, except when drinking (his saucer of canned-tuna water). He’s dedicated to the task (of rousing his humans when they sleep past his idea of an acceptable wake-up time). He’s adept at expressing his heart’s desire (that I stop practicing the piano and do something useful with my hands—operate the can opener, for example, or scratch under his chin).
And like his namesake, my cat Mercer strolls into the room hoping to be admired. He usually is.
Copyright © 2013 by Paulette Bochnig Sharkey
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