Afterglow Jazz and American Popular Song

Moon Country: Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer

"Moon Country" features classic songs written by Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael, performed by Louis Armstrong, Helen Forrest, and others.

Play Episode (Real Audio)
Skylark and Johnny Mercer

Photo: Book cover art.

Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer's songs evoke relaxed, lyrical, and whimsical Midwestern and southern takes on American people and American life.

Johnny Mercer and Hoagy Carmichael came from states of laid-back, rural charm and wrote songs that spoke to all of us.

Mercer was primarily a lyricist, Carmichael primarily a writer of melodies, and both men were different in many ways than their East Coast songwriting counterparts – a difference reflected in the music they wrote together and with others, which evokes relaxed, lyrical, and whimsical Midwestern and southern takes on American people and American life. Often the songs were underlined by a nostalgic longing for a place that embodied these notions—what Mercer and Carmichael, in one of their earliest songs, called “Moon Country.”

“Moon Country” features classic Carmichael-Mercer songs such as “Skylark,” “Lazybones,” and “How Little We Know,” performed by Louis Armstrong, Helen Forrest, and others, as well as several obscurities and unreleased recordings – Mercer and Carmichael demoing “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” for a movie that was never made (it ended up being used in Frank Capra’s Here Comes the Groom and won the duo an Oscar for Best Song), Carmichael doing a late-period collaboration called “A Perfect Paris Night,” and Eddy Arnold singing one of the last new Hoagy-Johnny tunes to be waxed in their lifetime – “Song of Long Ago,” with a Mercer lyric that nostalgically invokes “Stardust.”

Afterglow founding host Dick Bishop also joins us again to talk about the Carmichael-Mercer relationship.

My thanks to the Indiana University Archives of Traditional Music for their permission to use several Carmichael-Mercer recordings for this program. Be sure to check out their online Hoagy collection.

Read Thomas Cunniffe’s rundown on 12 standout recordings of Hoagy Carmichael tunes.

Watch Bing Crosby and Jane Wyman perform “In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening” from the film Here Comes the Groom:

Music Heard On This Episode

What'll They Think of Next
Helen Forrest/Benny Goodman — Complete Helen Forrest With Benny Goodman (Collector's Choice, 2001)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
What'll They Think of Next
Helen Forrest/Benny Goodman — Complete Helen Forrest With Benny Goodman (Collector's Choice, 2001)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Queenie the Quickchange Artist (excerpt)
Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael
album cover
Moon Country
Hoagy Carmichael — First of the Singer-Songwriters (JSP, 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Down t'Uncle Bill's
Frankie Trumbauer — First of the Singer-Songwriters (JSP, 2004)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Lazybones
Louis Armstrong — Complete Decca Recordings 1935-1946 (Mosaic, 2009)
album cover
The Rhumba Jumps
Mel Torme — Ole Torme (Universal, 2002)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
I Walk With Music
Rachel Caswell — Some Other Time (RNC)
album cover
Tied Up
Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael

Notes: Midpoint music bed

album cover
Skylark
Helen Forrest/Harry James — Bandstand Memories: 1938-1948 (Hindsight, 1994)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
He's Dead But He Won't Lie Down
Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael
album cover
In the Cool, Cool, Cool of the Evening
Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael
album cover
I Guess It Was You All Along
Ray Anthony — Classic Hoagy Carmichael (Smithsonian, 1994)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
How Little We Know
Nat King Cole — Capitol Sings Hoagy Carmichael (Capitol, 1995)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Song of Long Ago
Eddy Arnold — RCA Victor (The Glory of Love, 1969)
Buy from Amazon »
album cover
Perfect Paris Night
Hoagy Carmichael
album cover
Fleur de Lys
Johnny Mercer/Hoagy Carmichael
album cover
David Brent Johnson

Born in Indianapolis, Indiana, David Brent Johnson moved to Bloomington in 1991. He is an alumnus of Indiana University, and began working with WFIU in 2002. Currently, David serves as jazz producer and systems coordinator at the station. His interests include literature, history, music, writing, and movies.

View all posts by this author »

  • J. Pat Geis

    Subj: Moonglow with Martin
    As a Teen starting at the Uni of Nebr in Lincoln, I used to listen to Poole's Paradise. About 1947, He left WWL & Dick Martin took the time slot. While Poole clowned with sound effects, Martin came on with smooth Jazz. In 1956, I moved to San Francisco. I could no longer receive Moonglow. The last that I heard Moonglow was when I visited in Santa Cruz; had to be between 1958 & 1961.

  • Steve Martin

    Thank you for your kind words about my father, Dick Martin ( aka Moonglow with Martin). He loved his audience, and hoped his work brought joy to you. – Steve Martin/Baton Rouge, La.

  • M. Eaton

    As an aspiring teenage jazz musician in the late 1950's I would drive around the countryside outside of Kansas City, absorbing every note, every comment on Moonglow with Martin. Great memories.

  • Ruth Laney

    Steve, are any of your dad's shows preserved in any format? I fondly remember his WRKF show, which, as I recall, opened with the greeting, “Hello, old friend.” I loved his mellow voice. He is remembered and missed here in Baton Rouge.

  • Charles Winstanley

    Hi Steve…Your father use to work for me first at WJBO-FM and then at WQXY-FM, which I put on the air in 1965.  Your father was a marvelous gentleman of the broadcasting business.  I  sold WQXY in 1970 and moved my broadcasting business headquarters to Florida.  Carlie and I were in New Orleans in 1982 and we went to the Blue Room for a Four Freshman show.  We spent the evening with Dick and the Freshman after two shows that  we will always remember.  I still miss him to this day. 

Stay Connected

What is RSS? RSS makes it possible to subscribe to a website's updates instead of visiting it by delivering new posts to your RSS reader automatically. Choose to receive some or all of the updates from Afterglow:

Support For Indiana Public Media Comes From

About Afterglow

About The Host

Search Afterglow

This Week On Night Lights

At The Jazz Corner Of The World: Live From Birdland

The entrance to the Birdland nightclub in New York City.

Birdland was known as “the jazz corner of the world,” and from 1949 to 1965 it played host to some of the greatest names on the modern jazz scene.

Read more »

Night Lights is WFIU's weekly program of classic jazz hosted by David Brent Johnson.

More from Night Lights »