Mary Ann Mercer

Singer Mary Ann Mercer came to fame in the late 1930s as a vocalist for Mitchell Ayres. After leaving Ayres in 1941, she spent the rest of that decade working on Chicago radio before disappearing into the mists of history in the early 1950s.

Born in St. Louis, Michigan, Mercer studied as a pre-med student at the University of Michigan before turning to show business. The petite brunette originally wanted to be a dancer but her career hopes ended when she broke an ankle during a performance. Always the trouper, she improvised her finish with a song and stuck with singing thereafter.

Mercer sang with Vincent Lopez and his orchestra at the Chez Paree night club in Chicago before heading to New York, where she performed in various clubs during 1937. By January 1938, she had joined Ayres, becoming a fixture in the band for the next three-and-half years. Ayres was still relatively new and unknown at the time. By late 1939, however, his orchestra had become one of the top-selling dance bands in the country. The group typically played novelty tunes, with Mercer sharing vocals duties with male singer Tommy Taylor. The pair often sang duets. Band members referred to Mary Ann as “Mother Mercer.” She reportedly darned their socks.

1941 saw big changes in the Ayres line-up. Taylor left in July, and Mercer followed in August, joining NBC radio’s College Humor program, replacing Virginia Verrill, who left to become a mother. Broadcast out of Chicago, the show also featured Bob Strong’s orchestra. When College Humor was cancelled in early October, both Mercer and Strong moved to a new program called Uncle Walter’s Dog House. Mercer also became Strong’s regular vocalist, touring with the band. In November, she was named “Huddle Girl” by the 1st Cavalry Division football team at Fort Bliss, Texas, so called because the team would rather huddle with her than anyone else. She made a personal appearance at the base, which included dating a chosen serviceman.

At the first of March 1942, Verrill returned from maternity leave and took over her old spot with Strong’s band on Uncle Walter’s Dog House. After leaving the show, Mercer began a tour of army camps in the Chicago and Midwest region, becoming known as the “Victory Girl.” In September 1942, she was back on the air as a staff vocalist at WBBM in Chicago, where she appeared on a variety of programs over the next several months, some of which were broadcast nationally on CBS. She also continued her war work, singing on two navy radio programs, one on WBBM and one on WGN. A May 1943 report in Down Beat magazine called her a “recent bride.”

By August 1944, Mercer was on NBC radio, where she remained until mid-1950. In 1951, she reportedly signed with the small Majestic label.[1] Beyond that, she vanishes from the public record.


  1. This Majestic label was not the same Majestic of the mid-1940s, which went bankrupt in 1947. This Majestic had only recently begun operation. ↩︎


  1. Advertisement. “Season's Greetings from Mitchell Ayres.” Billboard 1 Jan. 1938: 25.
  2. “Night Club Reviews: Village Barn, New York.” Billboard 2 Jul. 1938: 18.
  3. “The Reviewing Stand: Mitchell Ayres and His 'Fashions in Music.'” Billboard 21 Oct. 1939: 12.
  4. Spelvin, George. “The Broadway Beat.” Billboard 11 Nov. 1939: 17.
  5. “New Names Will Appear on Disks.” Billboard 16 Dec. 1939: 68.
  6. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 20 Apr. 1940: 22.
  7. Advertisement. “Mitchell Ayres.” Warren Times-Mirror [Warren, Pennsylvania] 11 Jul. 1940: 2.
  8. “Mary Ann Mercer.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1940: 8.
  9. Advertisement. “Mitchell Ayres.” Billboard 28 Sep. 1940: 40.
  10. “Mitchell Ayres.” Billboard 9 Nov. 1940: 4.
  11. “Night Club Reviews: Hotel St. George, Bermuda Terrace, Brooklyn.” Billboard 21 Dec. 1940: 18.
  12. “Broken Ankle Starts Career.” Columbia Spectator [New York, New York] 7 Feb. 1941: 1.
  13. “On the Records: Mitchell Ayres.” Billboard 15 Feb. 1941: 67.
  14. “The Yankees Got Their Kicks.” Down Beat 15 May 1941: 20.
  15. “Night Club Reviews: Chase Hotel, Chase Club, St. Louis.” Billboard 24 May 1941: 19.
  16. Oldfield, Barney. “Theater Topics.” Down Beat 25 May 1941: D-6.
  17. Green, Nat. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 16 Aug. 1941: 7.
  18. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 16 Aug. 1941: 10.
  19. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 6 Sep. 1941: 11.
  20. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 11 Oct. 1941: 8.
  21. “Huddle Girl.” The Fairfield Daily Ledger [Fairfield, Iowa] 18 Nov. 1941: 2.
  22. Locke, Bob. “Chi Musicians Pass Up Biggest Event.” Down Beat 1 Dec. 1941: 5.
  23. Advertisement. “Bob Strong.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1941: 18.
  24. Jovien, Harold. “Musicians On the Air.” Down Beat 15 Feb. 1942: 16.
  25. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 7 Mar. 1942: 7.
  26. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 21 Mar. 1942: 7.
  27. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 23 May 1942: 7.
  28. “-and this is the army, gates.” Down Beat 15 Aug. 1942: 15.
  29. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 26 Sep. 1942: 7.
  30. Honigberg, Sam. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 3 Oct. 1942: 8.
  31. Green, Nat. “Radio Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 21 Nov. 1942: 7.
  32. Advertisement. “Season's Greetings from Mary Ann Mercer.” Down Beat 15 Dec. 1942: 14.
  33. Green, Nat. “Takes on Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 16 Jan. 1943: 6.
  34. “Program Reviews: Ahoy, America.” Billboard 23 Jan. 1943: 8.
  35. Green, Nat. “Takes on Talent: Chicago.” Billboard 20 Feb. 1943: 7.
  36. “Program Reviews: Mr. Moneybags.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1943: 9.
  37. “Big 'Hot Air' Line-Up.” Billboard 17 Apr. 1943: 7.
  38. “New Mary Ann Mercer.” Billboard 1 May 1943: 6.
  39. “Mary Ann Mercer Has New Program.” Down Beat 15 May 1943: 4.
  40. “Today's Radio Programs.” Council Bluffs Nonpareil [Council Bluffs, Iowa] 19 Aug. 1944: 8.
  41. “Today's Radio Programs.” Council Bluffs Nonpareil [Council Bluffs, Iowa] 10 Jun. 1945: 8.
  42. “Sunday's Programs.” The Ogden Standard-Examiner [Ogden, Utah] 21 Oct. 1945: 13B.
  43. “Radio Programs.” Reno Evening Gazette [Reno, Nevada] 6 Sep. 1947: 13.
  44. “Radio.” The Long Beach Independent 12 Jun. 1949: 39.
  45. “KYUM.” The Yuma Daily Sun 17 Jun. 1950: 5.
  46. “Music as Written.” Billboard 20 Jan. 1951: 14.