Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Hoagy Carmichael - Member of the Scottish American Hall of Fame

For nearly fifty years Hoagy Carmichael was one of America's great popular song writers.  He wrote the songs that America sang in the 1920s, '30s, '40s and well into the 50s.  Perhaps his best known works are Stardust and Skylark.   Among the many other are: Lazy River, In the Still of the Night, Two Sleepy People, Georgia on MY Mind, Little Old Lady, Lazy Bones, Old Rockin' Chair. and  Buttermilk Skies.

His songs were unique to America and a sentimental bridge between the jazz of the 1920s and the raucous music of the late 1950s.  When the cacophony of rock hit the airwaves, Carmichael decided to quit.  "I don't want to compete with that kind of music."  Hoagland Howard Carmichael, actor and composer, was born November 22, 1899, in Bloomington, Indiana.  His father worked for a utility company as a lineman.  When queried about his Scottish ancestry, he answered, "Yes, I been of Scottish descent all my life, according to my grandmother."  The Carmichaels came to America from Scotland about 1775.

Kept indoors by rain that postponed a baseball game, he began idly to hit the keys on the family piano and found that he had an unusual talent.  He had "discovered a whole new world."  At Indiana University he earned a law degree but never practiced.  Music was his first love.  Playing with a jazz band, he began to compose songs that took the country by storm.  And his sly, shy mannerisms and croaky voice gave an odd attractive touch when he sang them.  His songs are described as a throwback to an earlier carefree America and an innocence that broke clean from the jazz on which he was weaned.

He returned to Rancho Mirage, California, where he died on December 28, 1981.  He was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington.

*Was named Hoagland after a circus troupe "The Hoaglands" had stayed at their house during his mother's pregnancy. He father was a horse-drawn taxi driver and electrician.

*He appeared in a total of 14 movies.  He was a Republican who had a strong dislike of FDR.  Supported Wendell Wilkie for president in 1940.

*In 1977 he married Dorothy Wanda McKay.  There was also a 20 year marriage to Ruth Carmichael that produced two sons:  Hoagy Bix and Randy.  Randy was a talented pianist.

*In 1986 the Carmichael family donated his piano, archives and other items to Indiana University.

*There is a letter in our files from Mr. Carmichael, dated Sept. 2, 1980 where he confirms his Scottish heritage.

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