Born in Bloomington on Nov. 22, 1899, Hoagy Carmichael composed several hundred songs in his lifetime, including 50 that hit record status. Community radio station WFHB will celebrate Carmichael’s birthday with a fundraising event Nov. 16 at the Fountain Square Ballroom.
WFHB music director Jim Manion said the station has done events for Carmichael’s birthday in the past, and the last one was in 1999. He said the Fountain Square Ballroom is a new venue for the event, and it is in the same area where Carmichael used to perform in Bloomington.
“It’s kind of cool that we’re going to the same area, not really the same building, but the same kind of feel where you look out and see the square and we’re just really looking forward to it in a lot of ways,” he said.
The concept of the show is to have present-day Bloomington musicians interpreting the music of Hoagy Carmichael, Manion said. The lineup includes Kid Kazooey’s Hoagy House band and a performance by Mark Bingham with Dave Gulyas.
Bingham was born in Bloomington, and while he was at IU, he joined the band the Screaming Gypsy Bandits, he said. Manion said Bingham now lives in Louisiana, and it is rare for him to come back to Bloomington and perform.
Bingham is known for incorporating theatrical elements into his performances, Manion said. For this show, he said Bingham is going to stage it as if he and Dave Gulyas are sitting at a table in a coffee shop and are discussing Carmichael’s music and playing his songs.
“It’ll be interesting, and we’re presenting it in a little different way,” Bingham said. “We’re just sort of sitting there talking about it, talking to each other and the audience and look at the music, talk about what it is and then play it.”
Carmichael influenced Bingham and other musicians in the Bloomington music scene, Manion said.
“Hoagy was born in 1899, Mark was born in 1949, 50 years later, but they both really had significant impacts on the Bloomington scene,” Manion said. “And I always kind of maintain that even if you don’t know who those people are, and you’re a musician in Bloomington, you’ve been influenced by what they did.”
Bingham will play some of Carmichael’s less famous songs for his performance, he said. Bingham said Carmichael wrote a log of music around the end of his life that never got recorded, and it was fun to bring those out.
Carmichael was one of the first DIY musicians in Bloomington, Manion said.
“Hoagy had a lot going on, he was really something,” he said. “You can kind of get lost in the rabbit hole of learning about Hoagy Carmichael, but he was a true Hoosier out there in the big world.”
Carmichael’s music has influenced just about any musician you could imagine, Bingham said.
“Here’s somebody that, he just kept writing until he was old,” Bingham said. “He was a lifer musician, composer, artist and he kept going into old age even though no one was caring what he did and he didn’t have a lot of work, he kept writing. So that was great. That’s an inspiration.”