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Hoagy Carmichael Biography Page

by Patrick McAndrews:

Howard Hoagland Carmichael
Born November 22, 1899 in Bloomington, IN
Died December 27, 1981 in Palm Springs, CA

In addition to being one of the great composers of his time, Howard "Hoagy" Charmichael was a fine performer in his own right. His father was a laborer, who moved his family around the midwest, eventually landing back in Indiana. In 1916 he moved the family to Indianapolis, where Hoagland took piano lessond from a ragtime player named Reginald DuValle. His mother, who earned money playing piano for local silent moviehouses, would tell young Howard "Music is fun, but it don't buy you cornpone", while continuing to teach the young lad the piano. Hoagland's first love was jazz music, although he studied law at Indiana University. Nicknamed "Hoagy" by a college sweetheart, he led a band called"Carmichael's Collegeans" where he gained noriety on the campus. Aside from his studies, he was able to sing, play piano, coronet, and occasionally, the trumpet, as well as compose. The early influence of hearing Louis Jordan's band lead him to devote more time to music and less time to law. In 1922 he became friends with a 19 year old Bix Beiderbecke, a coronet player and bandleader who encouraged him to write music, Whom he was close with until his death in 1933. In 1924 his first composition, "Riverboat Shuffle" was recorded by Beiderbecke and his "Wolverines", which went on to become a dixieland standard. In 1927, Hoagy finally abandoned his law studies for good after recording "Washboard Blues" with Paul Whiteman. It was then onto New York, and a short period of struggle, taking a job selling stocks with a Wall Street firm, but as a performer he led several bands playing with a few top-notch jazz musicians, (recording among other things, an uptempo stomp version of Star Dust.) In 1929, living in New York, his tune "Star Dust" was published. Hoagy roamed the city's vast jazz scene, singing, playing piano, and just hanging out. The musicians he met, Louis Armstrong, Red Allen, Benny Goodman, Beiderecke, Bud Freeman, Red Norvo, Glenn Miller, Joe Venuti, Gene Krupa, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Pee Wee Russell, Jack Teagarden and many others, influenced him tremendously as well as recording his songs. Hoagy was now developing a solid reputation as a songwriter and by 1930, his compositions, The Nearness of You, "Heart and Soul," Stardust, Skylark and "New Orleans" quickly became standards throughout the industry, covered by many performers.

By 1935 he was in Hollywood working on music for movies, where he ended up appearing in a total of fourteen films as an actor. He usually played a character not unlike himself, a well travelled, philosophical singer at a piano. His films include: "To Have And Have Not" and "The Best Years of Our Lives," In 1946 Hoagy received an Academy Award nomination for Old Buttermilk Sky from the film "Canyon Passage" as well as publishing his first book of memoirs, "The Stardust Road." Then in 1951, winning an Oscar for In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening, sung by Bing Crosby in the film "Here Comes The Groom".

In 1952, Carmichael has a priceless experience while playing golf. Scoring a hole-in-one with witnesses at the Bel Aire Country Club. After cheering dies he exclaims: "Wait, let me hit another; I think I've got it!"

In 1953, Hoagy becomes TV host for the variety program "The Saturday Night Revue," a summer replacement for Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows." He kept on writing and recording up until the late 50's when he recorded "Hoagy Sings Charmichael" backed by a full orchestra.

In 1965, Hoagy published "Sometimes I Wonder." A second book of memoirs and while sitting next to Peggy Lee on an airplane she suggests the book's title.

In his own way, Charmichael was an innovator and trend setter, but despite his accomplishments he felt resentful of the new rock n' roll creeping into the music industry and withdrew into semi retirement.

On December 27th, 1981 Hoagy passes away at his home after suffering a heart attack.

A partial list of Hoagy Carmichael Songs

Back to the Hoagy Carmichael Lyrics Page

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