George L. Mercer, 61, a retired Labor Department employe who hosted a jazz program on WAMU-FM for several years, died of a heart ailment Sunday in Prince George's General Hospital in Cheverly.

Mr. Mercer, sometimes knwon as "the man from Basin Street," was the producer and host of the "Jazz Anthology" from 1965 to 1969. The early morning shows highlighted a performer or a school of jazz, with records of artists interspersed with commentary by Mr. Mercer.

"Jazz Anthology" had begun early in the summer of 1965. At that time Mr. Mercer, a devoted fan of the program, phoned in suggestions and lent the station rare jazz recordings. He proved so knowledgeable that the station let him take over the show. It proved to be one of the station's most popular programs. "Jazz Anthology" made the transition from a weekly to a daily program.

The show was syndicated by the Eastern Educational Radio Network. With more than 100 one-hour tapes of the program on file, WAMU-FM has continued airing "Jazz Anthology" daily since Mr. Mercer's retirement.

Mr. Mercer was born in Lousiville, Ky., and was bitten by the radio bug early in life. He used to carry the guitar of a singing cowboy who performed on Lousiville radio station WHAS. The cowboy was Gene Autry.

During World War II, Mr. Mercer served in the Marine Corps and played the drums with Buddy Rich while they were both stationed near San Diego. Later in the war, Mr. Mercer was sent overseas and served in Okinawa.

Before coming to Washington in the mid-1950s, he worked as a sign painter, played in jazz and blues groups, including the Blue Star Rangers, and billed himself as "Stix Lonzo."

He worked as an illustrator at the Labor Department for 16 years before retiring for reasons of health in 1975.

Survivors include two daughters, Jo Ann McKeaver, of North Beach, Md., and Wanda Willoughby, of St. Louis, Mo.; a son, Gary, of Minnesota; a brother, James R., of Bowling Green, Ky., and six grandchildren.