Statue in Savannah honors songwriter

SAVANNAH, GA. --- Jeepers creepers!

It's a Johnny Mercer statue for tourists' peepers.

The Savannah-born songwriter was honored in his hometown Wednesday with a lifesize bronze likeness. Mercer, a celebrated lyricist, gave a poetic grace and a slangy tang to songs such as Moon River and Jeepers Creepers.

About 150 people cheered as the statue was unveiled in downtown Savannah's Ellis Square on what would have been Mercer's 100th birthday. He died in 1976, leaving a legacy of more than 1,000 songs -- many becoming American standards thanks to countless recordings and performances by the likes of Ella Fitzgerald and Frank Sinatra.

The gap-toothed grin captured on Mercer's face by sculptor Susie Chisholm reflects a certain impish irony.

Depicting the songwriter reading a newspaper in his overcoat and Stetson, the statue makes Mercer an unprecedented 20th-century honoree among the 18th-century founders and war heroes immortalized by monuments in Georgia's oldest city.