|About this Recording
8.120574 - CARMICHAEL, Hoagy: Mr Music Master (1928-1947)
Notwithstanding his popular – and perhaps overriding– image as the café pianist in the Bogart classic To Have And Have Not (Warner, 1945) and the drawling, laconic crooning-star caricature of his later years, Hoagy Carmichael played a major role in the development of early 20th century jazz and its dissemination to a wider audience.
One of the most innovative pianist-songwriters in popular music history, Hoagy was born Howard Hoagland Carmichael, the eldest of three siblings, in Bloomington, Indiana, on 22nd November, 1899. His mother Lida, a noted pianist in the local silent cinema, encouraged the young Hoagy’s interest in the piano which, from an early age revolved mainly around ragtime and its derivative … jazz. (As Indiana was at that time the hub of the popular music-publishing concerns which had sprung up during the 1890s, he now seems to have been ideally placed for exposure to the right elements).
Hoagy’s undoubted talent for improvisation was brought to the fore by the black ragtime pianist Reggie 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 the brothels and speakeasies of that city before returning in 1919 to Bloomington to complete his high-school studies and, the following year, enrolling as a law student at Indiana University. Already a skilled improviser and a prolific songwriter, Hoagy there formed the noted jazz band which would remain a regular feature of campus dances until his graduation in 1926 and while still an Indiana undergraduate, in 1922, he met his greatest musical soul-mate in Bix Beiderbecke (1903-1931). Until Bix’s premature death the two men remained the best of friends (legend has it that Hoagy made Bix famous by hiring the legendary jazz cornet virtuoso and his Wolverines to play ten consecutive weekend gigs at the University), but their reciprocal musical admiration and influence proved even more far-reaching: the tunes of “Skylark” and “Stardust” are believed to have been inspired by Bix’s playing.
In 1923 Hoagy wrote the piano solo “Freewheelin’” which was later revamped as “Riverboat Shuffle” and recorded by the Wolverines in Richmond, Indiana, on 6th May, 1924. The Wolverines’ pianist, Dick Voynow, succeeded in placing this number with the New York based Irving Mills music publishing company and, on the strength of its success, 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 the offer accepted a position as a clerk in West Palm Beach instead. But when, in 1926, Mills published “Washboard Blues”, this development put Carmichael back on track as a composer and as a piano soloist and the die was cast. He made his own first recording of the song in 1925 with the Curtis Hitch Band and it was also 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 Hoagy wrote “Barnyard Shuffle”, a piece which, re-christened “Stardust”, was first recorded – without vocal – on October 31 of that year, by the composer himself and his Collegians Band (a rather amorphous jazz ensemble, with varying personnel, 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 piano solo. At last Mitchell Parish (born 1900) was commissioned by Mills to add the now universally-known lyrics and, with more than 1,300 recorded versions to date, 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 he remained until 1936. Through Bix’s contacts he assembled a host of the finest white jazz musicians which at one time or another featured Benny Goodman, Gene Krupa, Ed Lang, Joe Venuti, Jack Teagarden, Frankie Trumbauer and others for the first recordings of such hits as “Rockin’ Chair”, “Lazy River” and “Georgia On My Mind” – this last a classic jazz-standard which was the subject of a 1960s Ray Charles hit-revival, was first inspired by Trumbauer and was given lyrics by Hoagy’s college-mate Stuart Gorrell (1902-1963).
In 1931 three changes occurred 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) and the upturn in the movie industry (the only American industry really booming at that time). With the advent of the film-musical and the Swing Era he became less jazz-orientated and more commercially aware both as a writer and as a performer. His songs were regular features
with the great black jazz-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 claimed he wrote this best-selling song with lyricist Johnny Mercer (1909-1976) in just 20 minutes!).
By 1936 Carmichael had arrived in Hollywood (that same year, coincidentally also the year of his marriage, his song “Little Old Lady” received its first airing on Broadway in the musical The Show Is On) and in 1937 he was hired by Paramount as a staff songwriter. There, he began his long and fruitful association with the great New York-born lyricist and songwriter Frank Loesser (1910-1969) – their early collaborations including “Small Fry” (a hit for both Crosby and Mercer), “Heart And Soul” (a success for Connee Boswell) and “Two Sleepy People” (for Bob Hope and Shirley Ross).
With his reputation as a Hollywood songwriter still growing, Mr. Music Maker Carmichael continued his links with New York’s Tin Pan Alley. In the early 1940s, after the US entry into 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 “Baltimore Oriole”, “Don’t Forget To Say “No””, “Baby, Old Man Harlem”, “Billy-A-Dick” and “Doctor”, “Lawyer, Indian”, Chief (the last two heard here in scarce alternative versions recorded for the American Recording Artists label).
All of his recordings of the pre-1950 period achieved varying degrees of success: the ironic “Hong Kong Blues” reached No.6 in this 1945 recording, “Ol’ Buttermilk Sky” (a collaboration with English lyric-writer Jack Brooks which earned an Oscar nomination when Hoagy himself featured it in the Universal western Canyon Passage, this was a December 1946 No.2), whereas his only No.1 (ironically not actually a Carmichael composition) came that same year with the sadistically droll “Huggin’ An’ Chalkin’”. Hoagy Carmichael died in Palm Springs, California, on December 28, 1981.
Tracks 1, 10, 16, 21:
Art Bernstein, bass; Spike Jones, percussion
1. THE OLD MUSIC
MASTER (Carmichael–Johnny Mercer)
2. WALKIN’ THE DOG
3. GEORGIA ON MY MIND
4. AM I BLUE? (Harry
6. SING IT WAY DOWN
7. HONG KONG BLUES
8. A MAN COULD BE A
WONDERFUL THING (Corday–Carr)
9. CASANOVA CRICKET
10. OLD MAN HARLEM
(Carmichael–Paul Francis Webster)
12. DOCTOR, LAWYER,
INDIAN, CHIEF (Carmichael–Paul Francis Webster)
13. I CAN’T GET STARTED
(Vernon Duke–Ira Gershwin)
14. TALKING IS A
WOMAN (Carl Sigman–Bob Russell)
15. MEMPHIS IN JUNE
(Carmichael–Paul Francis Webster)
16. DON’T FORGET TO
SAY “NO”, BABY (Carmichael–Cee Pee Johnson–Lou Victor)
17. OL’ BUTTERMILK
SKY (Carmichael–Jack Brooks)
18. RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE
(Carmichael–Dick Voynow–Irving Mills–Mitchell Parish)
19. ROCKIN’ CHAIR
20. HUGGIN’ AND
CHALKIN’ (Hayes–Kermit Goell)
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