Hoagy Carmichael Anniversary Marked
Nov. 21, 1999
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) _ Kathryn Kahl knew the melody of Hoagy Carmichael's pop standard ``Stardust'' by heart before it got its name or its fame.
The song, one of the most frequently recorded popular compositions of all time, was an instrumental known then as ``One Night in Havana,'' she said.
And Carmichael was a young law student at Indiana University, playing impromptu piano concerts at a campus sandwich shop called the Book Nook, when Kahl met him in 1925.
None of Carmichael's friends thought the Bloomington native would become one of America's leading songwriters of the 20th century, said Kahl, 93. ``They didn't think much about him, except they thought he was kind of weird.''
Interest in Carmichael's work has soared as the 100th anniversary of his birth approaches Monday, said Gloria Gibson, director of the university's Archives of Traditional Music, which has an extensive collection of material on Carmichael's career.
``We've had calls and visits from people who simply love his songs, scholars who analyze his work within the context of American popular music, and researchers from the British Broadcasting Corp., National Public Radio and even 'CBS Sunday Morning,' who have contacted the archives for Carmichael materials for their programming,'' she said.
In response, the university's archive has put its collection of Carmichael's music, photos and correspondence on the Internet. Visitors to the Web site can listen to selections of Carmichael's most popular tunes, such as ``Georgia on My Mind,'' take a virtual tour of a memorabilia exhibit and view photos.
The Web site is part of an 18-month project to catalog, digitize and preserve every item in the university's Carmichael collection, Gibson said. When complete, the digital library will include about 250 hours of sound recordings, 4,550 pages of printed material and 1,070 photographs of Carmichael, who died Dec. 27, 1981, in California at age 82.
Carmichael began his musical career at Indiana. He later appeared in several motion pictures, including ``To Have and Have Not'' in 1944, and he starred in his own radio and television programs.
Kahl, known then as Kathryn Black, was a freshman when Carmichael began dropping by her Delta Gamma sorority house.
``He had kind of a secret crush on one of the girls in the sorority. And sometimes she wouldn't be there and we'd visit,'' she said, recalling how the two soon became friends.
Kahl said Carmichael would pick her up in his beat-up Ford Roadster and drive to the Book Nook, where he would play for hours on a piano in a corner window. She remembered the old raincoat that never left his side when he wasn't wearing it.
Music was Carmichael's social life.
``He never had dates at IU. He was too busy playing,'' Kahl said.
Years after they met, she heard ``Stardust'' on the radio for the first time. Even though lyrics were added by Mitchell Parish, they could have easily described Carmichael's love affair with his music.
``... Sometimes I wonder why I spend the lonely nights dreaming of a song
``That melody haunts my reverie and I am once again with you ...''
Carmichael's love of music almost cost him his degree, she said. When his Kappa Sigma fraternity brothers hid his beat-up old trumpet, he skipped all his classes to search for it.
``They had to give it back to him so he could go to class and graduate,'' Kahl said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Indiana University's Hoagy Carmichael Web site is http://www.dlib.indiana.edu/collections/hoagy/