CARMICHAEL, Hoagy: Mr Music Master
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\Mr. Music Master" Original Recordings 1928-1947
Notwithstanding hispopular - and perhaps overriding- image as the cafe pianist in the Bogartclassic To Have And Have Not (Warner, 1945) and the drawling, laconiccrooning-star caricature of his later years, Hoagy Carmichael played a majorrole in the development of early 20th century jazz and its dissemination to awider audience.
One of the mostinnovative pianist-songwriters in popular music history, Hoagy was born HowardHoagland Carmichael, the eldest of three siblings, in Bloomington, Indiana, on22nd November, 1899. His mother Lida, a noted pianist in the local silentcinema, encouraged the young Hoagy's interest in the piano which, from an earlyage revolved mainly around ragtime and its derivative ... jazz. (As Indiana wasat that time the hub of the popular music-publishing concerns which had sprungup during the 1890s, he now seems to have been ideally placed for exposure tothe right elements).
Hoagy's undoubtedtalent for improvisation was brought to the fore by the black ragtime pianistReggie Duval, whom he first met shortly after his family moved to Indianapolis,in 1916, and as a teenager he gained his first professional experience in thebrothels and speakeasies of that city before returning in 1919 to Bloomingtonto complete his high-school studies and, the following year, enrolling as a lawstudent at Indiana University. Already a skilled improviser and a prolificsongwriter, Hoagy there formed the noted jazz band which would remain a regularfeature of campus dances until his graduation in 1926 and while still anIndiana undergraduate, in 1922, he met his greatest musical soul-mate in BixBeiderbecke (1903-1931). Until Bix's premature death the two men remained thebest of friends (legend has it that Hoagy made Bix famous by hiring thelegendary jazz cornet virtuoso and his Wolverines to play ten consecutiveweekend gigs at the University), but their reciprocal musical admiration andinfluence proved even more far-reaching: the tunes of "Skylark" and "Stardust"
are believed to have been inspired by Bix's playing.
In 1923 Hoagy wrotethe piano solo "Freewheelin'" which was later revamped as "Riverboat Shuffle"
and recorded by the Wolverines in Richmond, Indiana, on 6th May, 1924. TheWolverines' pianist, Dick Voynow, succeeded in placing this number with the NewYork based Irving Mills music publishing company and, on the strength of itssuccess, Mills offered Hoagy a job as an arranger and song-plugger. Hoagy,however, was keen at that stage to pursue a career at law, and rejecting theoffer accepted a position as a clerk in West Palm Beach instead. But when, in1926, Mills published "Washboard Blues", this development put Carmichael backon track as a composer and as a piano soloist and the die was cast. He made hisown first recording of the song in 1925 with the Curtis Hitch Band and it wasalso a success for Red Nichols (1926; a US No.13 hit in 1927) and Paul Whiteman(1927; with Hoagy as piano soloist and vocalist; a US No. 17 in 1928).
During 1927 Hoagywrote "Barnyard Shuffle", a piece which, re-christened "Stardust", was firstrecorded - without vocal - on October 31 of that year, by the composer himselfand his Collegians Band (a rather amorphous jazz ensemble, with varyingpersonnel, they are also heard here in a swinging version of Shelton Brooks'1916 "Walkin' The Dog". In 1928 Don Redman featured the still wordless"Stardust" and, in January 1929, Mills published it in New York as a pianosolo. At last Mitchell Parish (born 1900) was commissioned by Mills to add thenow universally-known lyrics and, with more than 1,300 recorded versions todate, one of the world's most enduring popular song standards was born.
Encouraged by the success of this song Hoagy moved to New York where heremained until 1936. Through Bix's contacts he assembled a host of the finestwhite jazz musicians which at one time or another featured Benny Goodman, GeneKrupa, Ed Lang, Joe Venuti, Jack Teagarden, Frankie Trumbauer and others forthe first recordings of such hits as "Rockin' Chair", "Lazy River" and "GeorgiaOn My Mind" - this last a classic jazz-standard which was the subject ofa 1960s Ray Charles hit-revival, was first inspired by Trumbauer and was givenlyrics by Hoagy's college-mate Stuart Gorrell (1902-1963).
In 1931 three changesoccurred in Hoagy's world which changed his attitudes to music and to life:Bix's sudden death, Hoagy's invitation to join the American music publishers'association ASCAP (effectively a passport to any up-and-coming songwriter) andthe upturn in the movie industry (the only American industry really booming atthat time). With the advent of the film-musical and the Swing Era he becameless jazz-orientated and more commercially aware both as a writer and as aperformer. His songs were regular features
with the great blackjazz-dance orchestras, particularly Duke Ellington and Fletcher Henderson and,before 1935, he had himself cut over 50 sides for the Victor company, including"Sing It Way Down Low", "Snowball", the lyrical "One Morning In May" and"Lazybones" (originally a 1933 smash hit for the Mills Brothers, Hoagy claimedhe wrote this best-selling song with lyricist Johnny Mercer (1909-1976) in just20 minutes!).
By 1936 Carmichaelhad arrived in Hollywood (that same year, coincidentally also the year of hismarriage, his song "Little Old Lady" received its first airing on Broadway inthe musical The Show Is On) and in 1937 he was hired by Paramount as astaff songwriter. There, he began his long and fruitful association with thegreat New York-born lyricist and songwriter Frank Loesser (1910-1969) - theirearly collaborations including "Small Fry" (a hit for both Crosby and Mercer),"Heart And Soul" (a success for Connee Boswell) and "Two Sleepy People" (forBob Hope and Shirley Ross).
With his reputationas a Hollywood songwriter still growing, Mr. Music Maker Carmichael continuedhis links with New York's Tin Pan Alley. In the early 1940s, after the US entryinto World War 2, he played his own special part in the war-effort by giving"the world something to hum" (or even to whistle) with such tunes as "BaltimoreOriole", "Don't Forget To Say "No"", "Baby, Old Man Harlem", "Billy-A-Dick" and"Doctor", "Lawyer, Indian", Chief (the last two heard here in scarcealternative versions recorded for the American Recording Artists label).
All of his recordingsof the pre-1950 period achieved varying degrees of success: the ironic "HongKong Blues" reached No.6 in this 1945 recording, "Ol' Buttermilk Sky" (acollaboration with English lyric-writer Jack Brooks which earned an Oscarnomination when Hoagy himself featured it in the Universal western CanyonPassage, this was a December 1946 No.2), whereas his only No.1 (ironicallynot actually a Carmichael composition) came that same year with thesadistically droll "Huggin' An' Chalkin'". Hoagy Carmichael died in PalmSprings, California, on December 28, 1981.
Tracks 1, 10, 16, 21:Art Bernstein, bass; Spike Jones, percussion
Track 2: HOAGYCARMICHAEL'S COLLEGIANS: Unknown personnel directed by Hoagy Carmichael
Track 3: HOAGYCARMICHAEL & HIS ORCHESTRA: Bix Beiderbecke, cornet; Ray Lodwig, trumpet;Boyce Cullen, Jack Teagarden, trombones; Jimmy Dorsey, clarinet; ArnoldBrilhart, alto sax; Bud Freeman, tenor sax; Min Leibrook, baritone sax; JoeVenuti, violin; Irving Brodsky, piano; Chauncey Moorh