The “roaring twenties” were a decade of dramatic change and growth. World War I (1914-1918) had ended and the economy was booming as a result of all money paid to industry by the US government. Prohibition had made the manufacture and sale, but not the consumption, of alcohol illegal. Most Americans now lived in cities rather than on farms. And in those cities, many Americans embraced nightlife and drinking illegal liquor.
The migration of African Americans from the US South to northern cities as part of the Great Migration brought jazz music to clubs and dance halls throughout the country. Recorded music was becoming widely available, so that people without access to live concerts could listen to the latest records of popular bands. College campuses, like Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, were especially receptive to these new musical trends. As Carmichael biographer Richard Sudhalter notes, “What rock-and-roll would be to a much later generation, hot jazz . . . was to the ‘flaming youth’ of the 1920s,” and bands both local and visiting were in demand for fraternity and sorority dances.
White Jazz musician Howard Hoagland “Hoagy” Carmichael epitomized this turbulent new era. Hoagy was one of the most inventive and adventurous of the great American songwriters. Hoagy was a star and American icon. He was someone you knew, a guy you wished you could have a drink and share a laugh with. He had the same joys and desires, disappointments and fears you had. Some of his songs--"Lazy River," "Heart and Soul"-- became so familiar they sounded as if no one had written them, they'd just always been there. Hoagy composed over 650 songs, appeared in nine different movies, and was voted into the inaugural group of the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
This tour will take you through the Bloomington of Hoagy's youth and childhood. It will show how different communities and experiences -- from working class whites to Black musicians and community members to the student who roamed the halls of Indiana University -- helped shape the man and musician he was.