By Jug Varner

You youngsters who weren’t around before or during WWII probably have no idea of how much the emphasis on and enjoyment of popular music affected the American culture… particularly for the teenagers of the 30s and 40s who eventually made up the majority of the millions who served in WWII.

In those days - before TV, computers, jets, et al, were invented - movies, radio, records, and live dance bands provided a seemingly endless supply of musical entertainment to a generation emerging from the financial catastrophe of the “Great Depression” years into a world at war.

And, as if overnight, they shifted to the production of war-oriented music following Japan’s bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 and United States’ entering of the war on the following day. For the next five years, the genre was primarily ballads of love for those separated by the war, along with various patriotic songs for both those who served and those who did their part on the “home front” - as well as funny parodies of life in the military.

For those of us involved in this tremendous conflict, this music was the “glue” that held together our hopes and dreams for the day we and our allies would emerge victorious and the world would once again return to normal - although, due to the nation’s unpreparedness, victory seemed less likely during the dark days of 1942 and 1943 than it actually turned out to be.

As one of those pop music fans who memorized almost every song he liked, many of them still remain in my occasional thoughts about life in that era and after - even though most have long since faded from the musical awareness of the general public.

One of the most prolific of all American song writers was a good ole’ boy from Georgia - Johnny Mercer - who had a special knack in composing meaningful lyrics with good tunes, both serious and funny. Other artists recorded many of his songs, but the ones of his own he recorded and sang himself had a special quality unlike any others. His voice, although perhaps not as good as some, had a decided southern accent and special feel that made his renditions all the more authentic and appealing - particularly those about the South.

Things have changed decidedly in both the music world and the military since that time, but one thing that may never change for new recruits is the “basic training blues” they get during those first few weeks. Johnny’s 1943 song, G.I. Jive, told a story all its own that anyone who experienced that training can relate to, even today:

Here are his lyrics… sorry you can’t hear the music because it adds so much to the story:

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
It starts with the bugler blowin' reveille over your bed when you arrive
Jack, that's the G. I. Jive
Jump in your suit
Make a salute

After you wash and dress
More or less
You go get your breakfast in a beautiful little cafe they call “The Mess”
Jack, when you convalesce
Outta your seat
Into the street
Make with the feet

If you're a P-V-T, your duty
Is to salute to L-I-E-U-T
But if you brush the L-I-E-U-T
The M-P makes you K-P on the Q-T

This is the G. I. Jive
Man alive
They give you a private tank that features a little device called “fluid drive”
Jack, after you revive
Chuck all your junk
Back in the trunk
Fall on your bunk

Soon you're countin' jeeps
But before you count to five
Seems you're right back diggin' that
G. I. Jive.

Johnny Mercer (1909-1957) is credited with more than 1500 songs for which he wrote the lyrics, or lyrics and music - for records, Broadway musicals, motion pictures and television - winning a variety of top awards including Oscars. He became famous as a song writer and recording artist, and the eventual head of Capitol Records. He left a great legacy in American music for generations to enjoy.

Here is a partial list of some of his best-known song lyrics:

Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive
And The Angels Sing
Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing In A Hurry
Autumn Leaves
Barefoot In The Park
Blue Rain
Blues In The Night (My Mama Done Tol' Me)
Bob White
Come Rain or Come Shine
Conversation While Dancing
Day In, Day Out
Days Of Wine And Roses
Dearly Beloved
Dream Awhile
Fools Rush In (Where Angels Fear To Tread)
G.I. Jive
Girlfriend Of The Whirling Dervish
Goody, Goody
Hit The Road To Dreamland
Hooray For Hollywood
How Little We Know
I'm An Old Cowhand From The Rio Grande
I’m Old Fashioned
In The Cool, Cool, Cool Of The Evening
I Remember You
I Thought About You
I Wanna Be Around (To Pick Up The Pieces)
Jeepers Creepers
Let’s Take The Long Way Home
Mister Meadowlark
Moment To Moment
Moon River
My Shining Hour
On The Atchison, Topeka And The Santa Fe
One For My Baby And One More For The Road
Pardon My Southern Accent
Pink Panther Theme
P.S. I Love You
Santa Claus Is Coming To Town
Satin Doll
Something’s Got To Give
Song Of India
Summer Wind
That Old Black Magic
This Time The Dream’s On Me
Too Marvelous For Words
You Must Have Been A Beautiful Baby

For more information about this gifted musical artist, Click Here