Charlie Mercer, one half of Macon music duet, dies at 89

Country performer found ‘50s fame, longtime local fans

jgaines@macon.comJanuary 3, 2014 

Charles D. “Charlie” Mercer, left, and his brother Wallace performed for many years as the Mercer Brothers. Charlie Mercer died Thursday at the age of 89. Wallace died in 2000.


With the Jan. 2 passing of Charles D. “Charlie” Mercer at age 89, another note in Macon’s long musical history fades into silence.

The Metter native and his brother Wallace, who died in July 2000, performed for many years as the Mercer Brothers. From performances on the Louisiana Hayride radio and TV show as well as the Grand Ole Opry, their country music drew enough of a following to result in a series of records. They played for many years on local radio and TV.

The two young men played music together on the farm before Wallace Mercer was drafted into World War II, said Margaret Mercer, Wallace Mercer’s widow.

“When he got out and came back, Charlie had been talking with ‘Uncle Ned,’” she said. “They started playing with him in the afternoons.”

Lowry “Uncle Ned” Stripling hosted the Hayloft Jamboree on WMAZ -- first on radio and later on TV -- in the 1940s and ‘50s. After more than a year of that, the brothers left for Shreveport, La., to play on the early days of the KWKH radio “Louisiana Hayride” show. The Mercer Brothers often appeared on the show in 1948, according to the 2009 book “Louisiana Fiddlers” by Ron Yule and Bill Burge.

“They ... played shows all over Louisiana and Texas and Arkansas,” Margaret Mercer said. She married Wallace in 1950, when the men returned.

Charlie Mercer also married. His wife, Geneva, died Nov. 7, 2013, at age 84.

Soon the brothers were back on WMAZ, performing on a Sunday-morning show that lasted 27 years, Margaret Mercer said. And their fans from the nationwide Louisiana Hayride broadcast could hear them again on Columbia Records, which released the Mercer Brothers’ sound in 1951 and 1952: “If Nickels Were Dimes,” “It Ain’t No Use,” “Me And My Busted Heart,” “No Place To Hang My Hat,” “Tell Me Who,” “What’s He Got That I Ain’t Got,” “Wish Bone” and “You Just Wait And See.”

But they also got jobs at Robins Air Force Base, and sometime around the late 1970s the Mercer Brothers went off the air, Margaret Mercer said.

“Well, they just grew older. They both were married,” she said. “Just one thing and another, and they finally quit.”

In the 1960s Charlie Mercer built a house near where his brother lived on Mount Pleasant Church Road, and in later years they all went to family reunions and other events together, Margaret Mercer said. After Charlie Mercer retired from the base, he worked around the house, traveled a good bit with his wife and was very active with her at First Evangelical Church, Margaret Mercer said.

But music was often on his mind. Charlie Mercer often talked about his days performing and traveling with his brother, she said. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame had a Mercer Brothers exhibit: their guitars, records and tapes, and a couple of shirts they performed in, Margaret Mercer said. The hall opened in Macon in 1996 but disposed of its exhibits when it closed in 2011.

“They offered Wallace’s and Charlie’s things back to us,” Margaret Mercer said. “My son-in-law went and picked them up and brought them back.”

Charlie Mercer was born Sept. 27, 1924, to Johnny and Cora Lee Mercer, according to his obituary. Visitation is scheduled for 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at First Evangelical Church, 3969 Mercer University Drive, with the funeral beginning at 2 p.m. Burial will follow in Macon Memorial Park.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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