Biography

“…one of the most dominating forces in gospel music…”
Singing News, the leading southern gospel music magazine

To date, William Elmo Mercer (known as “Elmo” to all) has written over 1,600 songs and arranged thousands more for top singers, groups and publishers nationwide.

After being a John T. Benson Company staff writer for ten years (in the 1950’s), Mercer became the Music Editor. On New Year’s Day of 1961, he moved his family to Nashville. Twenty years later in 1981, he retired from full-time duties but continued to do special projects for Benson, along with many other publishers as well.

Mercer has compiled and edited more than 200 gospel songbooks, including several in the popular “New Songs of Inspiration” series. His choral book, “Crusade Choir Vol. 1” has sold over 500,000 copies in just 22 years. His instrumental books are also very popular. Many denominational hymnals include his various songs, and in 1979, Elmo compiled and edited the National Baptist Hymnal.

Elmo Mercer wrote and published his first song, “A Glimpse of Jesus” at age 14. Just five years later at the age of 19, Mercer composed “Each Step I Take”, his most well-known song which has been recorded by hundreds of artists in many languages, including Slim Whitman and George Beverly Shea. While participating in evangelistic crusades in South Korea in 1981, he discovered the song to be a favorite among Christians there. It is loved and sung around the world. His song “What A Glad Reunion Day” is used in the soundtrack of the 1998 feature film “The Thin Red Line” (20th Century Fox).

Elmo and his wife, Marcia, traveled over 30 years in church music evangelism, going into all fifty states and various denominations. Having become an ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) member in 1957, he was honored at a Dove Awards banquet at the Nashville office for being a 40-year member back in 1997. He continues to receive annual awards from ASCAP for outstanding work in the gospel music field.

Elmo and Marcia’s life-purpose is expressed in their opening song of all concerts – “We’ve Come To Lift Up Jesus”.

Elmo’s Journey into Southern Gospel Music

A February 2014 article in Singing News magazine highlights Elmo Mercer’s storied past as a Southern Gospel composer, arranger and singer. Read more.

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6 thoughts on “Biography

  1. My favorite choral arrangements are those of Elmo Mercer. Classic Mercer I and II are as good as it gets…..especially “When My Savior Reached Down for Me” and “Another Look at Calvary”. I’ve been an Elmo fan for years.

  2. Mr. Mercer, I was a member of Riverside Baptist Church in Nashville when you were pianist there. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to thank you for sharing your gift of music. Although it is worn, I still have your The Songs of W. Elmo Mercer, Book No. 1 on my piano today. I still love Willing Hands and Fully Surrendered and all the others! Thank you so much.

  3. August 8, 2016 in the late afternoon, while waiting for my neighbors to arrive on a flight from Washington, D.C., I was parked next to a vehicle where I had the pleasure of a conversation with two of the most inspiring people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting. I was speaking to Mr. W. Elmo Mercer and his lovely wife. Mr. Mercer gave me his “business card” and immediately on arriving home, I checked into his website and began looking for his music on You Tube. I can only say, the Lord led me to this meeting and daily I listen to Mr. Mercer’s inspirational music. I start each day with listening to “Each Step I Take”, and it has become a devotional and a communion daily between my God and me. Thank you Lord for leading me to this man and his music and thank you Mr. Mercer for being in a place for me to have met you. (Yes, each step I take, I know He leads me)!

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