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In Tune -- by Bill Fuller
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In Tune               June 2006
Hoagy Carmichael

He went to Palm Beach, Florida in 1926, to try to establish a law practice. By his own
admission, he wasn’t a good lawyer.  He would sit at his desk and compose tunes while
waiting for clients. The law career was a flop, but the musical spark ignited something in
He went to Tin Pan Alley in New York and tried to make a go of writing songs, but this also
met with temporary failure. Next, he joined the Jean Goldkette Orchestra determined to be
successful in the music business. He played piano in the Goldkette band, arranged music
and had some of his own tunes played.
Nothing seemed to change. So, he went to Hollywood to try the music business there, but
couldn’t even get into the studios. He ended up hitchhiking a ride back east with the Paul
Whiteman Orchestra. A good-natured kid singing with the band shared his upper berth
with Hoagy, his name was Bing Crosby.
The ironic part of all this movement and the changes he went through is that all during this
time his meal-ticket, “Stardust” was sitting on a shelf gathering dust. True, it had made the
rounds with no success. That’s why it was shelved. But when the Isham Jones Orchestra
made the first recoding it in 1930, it took off; and so did Carmichael’s career in music.
Here are some Hoagy Carmichael gems:

STARDUST-(1926). This was not only Hoagy’s biggest seller, but one of the all-time biggest
sellers. The idea for the tune germinated while he was at Indiana University, but the
finished product was scribbled out in the front of a law book while waiting for business in
Florida. A Hollywood music dealer, in 1944, remarked, “Only thing wrong with that song is
the name. It should have been tagged, ‘Golddust’.”

GEORGIA –(1930). Stewart Gorrell wrote the lyrics to this tune which was popularized by
Mildred Bailey and then reprised in the 60’s by singer Ray Charles for whom it became a
huge hit.

RIVERBOAT SHUFFLE-(1925). Originally titled “Free Wheeling,” this tune was introduced
by cornetist Bix Beiderbecke and his Wolverines. Later on, in 1939, it acquired some lyrics
by Mitchell Parish.

LAZY RIVER (Up a), - (1930). Sydney Arodin wrote the lyrics to this one. It was revived in
1946 for the R.K.O. film, “The Best Years of Our Lives,” in which Hoagy himself sang it. It
was also adopted by the Si Zetner Band as their theme song.

NEW ORLEANS-(1932). This was recorded in 1933 by the Benny Moten Orchestra with a
vocal by Jimmy Rushing. Like “Stardust,” it was written at a brighter tempo than it is
usually played at now.

ROCKIN’ CHAIR-(1930). This one , like “Georgia.” Was popularized by Mildred Bailey
(who became Mrs. Red Norvo). It was also recorded by the Mills Brothers and also by Louis
Armstrong along with Hoagy.

WASHBOARD BLUES-(1928). This was first popularized by a band called Curtis Hitch’s
Happy Harmonists with Hoagy Carmichael on piano. It reached wider audiences through
Red Nichols and His Five Pennies as well as the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Mildred Bailey
recorded it in 1938.
Earlville Association for Ragtime Lovers Yearning
for Jazz Advancement and Socialization
composers, died on December 27, 1981, of a heart attack.
He was 82 years old. He wrote a lot of tunes, but the
quantity of his output was paltry compared to many.
What set Hoagy apart was not the quantity but the quality
and durability of his best work. Truth be told, he could
have lived his life comfortably on the income produced
by two or three of  his tunes.   
He was born in Bloomington, Indiana in 1899. He aspired
to be a lawyer and matriculated at Indiana University’s
law school. During this time he only tinkered with the
piano as a hobby.