Savannah Stopover. Photo by Caila Brown
Savannah: Where Music is a Melting Pot
A charming coastal enclave draped in Spanish moss, Savannah is known for its rich history, gorgeous architecture and unusual urban planning. The enchanting city is a favorite destination for artists, musicians and visitors from around the world who are drawn to its beauty, diversity and soulful energy.
Savannah's downtown is built around 22 public squares filled with greenery, gazebos, fountains and monuments to the past. Explore the squares and famed River Street to discover pieces of the city's musical history and experience Savannah's live music scene – particularly during the city's festivals when you can find bands in every club, on outdoor stages and in many non-traditional venues.
Famous Musicians from Savannah
A visit to Ellis Square will put you face-to-face with a jaunty statue of beloved native son Johnny Mercer, the most famous name in Savannah’s music history. Mercer, born in 1909, was a lifetime music lover; he began performing in the Christ Church choir at age six and spent his teenage years wandering Savannah’s streets, seeking out Louis Armstrong records and ducking into the city’s black churches to absorb the magnetic gospel music.
Mercer spent summers at his family’s second home on nearby Burnside Island; exploring that lush wilderness filled him with rich imagery he returned to time and time again throughout his storied career. Most famous for “Moon River,” the theme song from "Breakfast at Tiffany’s," which won him an Academy Award, Mercer wrote the lyrics for more than 1,500 songs, and left behind a prolific legacy of Southern charm and sly, sophisticated lyrical genius.
Savannah is a melting pot of history and culture, and no genre of music unifies a diverse range of people like jazz. Greats like Louis Armstrong’s mentor Joe “King” Oliver, Jabbo Smith and more were nurtured by time spent in Savannah.
Big Music Festivals in Savannah
Savannah Jazz Festival
The Coastal Jazz Association was formed in 1981 as a way to ensure that jazz would continue to thrive here. Several years later, their efforts birthed the Savannah Jazz Festival, going strong for 36 years now – each September brings a much-anticipated week of performances across the city.
Savannah Music Festival
Several years later, the Savannah Music Festival was born. Now in its 31st year, the festival is Georgia’s largest musical arts event. Each year, a distinctive multi-genre lineup takes the stage at some of the city’s most glorious venues, among them Lucas Theatre for the Arts, the Johnny Mercer Theater, and the North Garden Assembly Room at Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum.
Savannah Stopover Festival
The popularity of the Savannah Music Festival helped launch the Savannah Stopover Festival. Conceived as a gig for East Coast musicians who were on their way to play at Austin, Texas’ South by Southwest Festival in March, the hip festival is now a destination in its own right and boasts a delightfully eclectic list of past performers – Grimes, Deerhunter, Scotty ATL, Ezra Furman and Mac DeMarco, to name a few.
Hot Spots for Live Music in Savannah
There’s a live music venue to suit everyone in Savannah.
Visit Savannah Smiles Dueling Piano Bar to watch four talented piano players duke it out (on the keys, of course) to win the audience’s affection.
If you’re feeling grown ‘n sexy, hit up the swanky Jazz’d Tapas Bar for a martini and a bite to eat, and soak up the speakeasy vibe.
Must-see Spot for Music Fans
Graveface Records & Curiosities
Before you leave town, take the time to search out kitsch mecca Graveface Records & Curiosities to browse their carefully curated vinyl selection (including releases from their own Graveface record label) and bask in the macabre charm of the store’s décor.