Hoagy Carmichael left his mark on the music world as one of the great composers of the twentieth century. As a child the Indiana native showed strong musical inclinations. His mother played piano in a local movie theater and helped encourage him, though she warned against choosing music as a career. Heeding his mother's advice, in 1920 he entered Indiana University to study law.
Carmichael played piano in several bands during his college years and led two outfits of his own, Carmichael's Collegians and the Carmichael Syringe Orchestra. The latter was a free-spirited group which took guidance from a dada-influenced poet named Monk. While in college Carmichael became good friends with cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. Beiderbecke found Carmichael's original compositions intriguing, and in 1924 his Wolverines recorded ''Riverboat Shuffle.'' Inspired, Carmichael wrote more songs, including ''Washboard Blues','' which was recorded by Paul Whiteman.
Still trying to keep music in perspective, Carmichael graduated from college in 1926 and accepted a position at a law firm in Florida. One day soon after he heard a Red Nichols recording of ''Washboard Blues'' on a sidewalk phonograph. At that moment he decided to make music his life. He returned to Indiana, where he wrote the now standard ''Stardust.''
Carmichael worked with Whiteman, Jean Goldkette, and Don Redman before moving to New York, where his career struggled. Not having sold a song since his arrival, in 1930 he recorded several of his own tunes, ''Georgia on My Mind,'' '' Rockin' Chair'' and ''Lazy River.'' These recordings caught the attention of the music industry, and within a year Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington and the Dorsey Brothers had recorded their own versions of the songs.
Soon Carmichael's music was being heard in motion pictures and on Broadway. Carmichael himself began appearing in films, starting an acting career as a sideline. In 1939 he moved to Hollywood, where he continued writing, performing, recording and acting. In 1951 he and lyricist Johnny Mercer won an Oscar for their song ''In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening,'' sung by Bing Crosby in the film Here Comes the Groom.
During the 1940s Carmichael had his own radio program. He moved to television in 1953, hosting television's The Saturday Night Revue, a summer replacement series. In 1959 he accepted a dramatic role in the television series Laramie. Carmichael was one of the first inductees into the Songwriting Hall of Fame in 1971. Hoagy Carmichael suffered a heart attack and passed away in late 1981.