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Georgia on My Mind (1930)

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Origin and Chart Information
“In his charming drawl the master himself delivers the definitive version of the song. Half-singing, half-narrating, Carmichael meanders through the song at a lazy swing.”

- Ben Maycock

Rank 44
Music Hoagy Carmichael
Lyrics Stuart Gorrell

By 1930 Hoagy Carmichael had already written more than a dozen songs. His most famous work, “Star Dust” (1929), had been published and recorded but had yet to find success. Working at an investment company in New York, Carmichael was composing in his spare time and wrote “Georgia on My Mind” at the suggestion of friend and saxophonist Frankie Trumbauer, a musician and bandleader sometimes credited as the “grandfather of modern jazz.”

According to Richard Sudhalter in his Carmichael biography, Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael, Trumbauer asked Carmichael, “Why don’t you write a song about Georgia? Nobody ever lost money writing songs about the South.” Carmichael followed the advice, with Stuart Gorrell thinking of the title and helping out with the lyrics.


More on Hoagy Carmichael at JazzBiographies.com

More on Stuart Gorrell at JazzBiographies.com

Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra recorded the new song on September 15, 1930, in a Victor studio session. His “orchestra” was an all-star lineup of musicians:

Hoagy (vocal); Bix Beiderbecke (cornet), Ray Lodwig (trumpet); Jack Teagarden; Boyce Cullen (trombone); Jimmy Dorsey (clarinet/alto sax); ‘Bud’ Freeman (tenor sax); ‘Pee Wee’ Russell (alto sax); Irving Brodsky (piano); Joe Venuti (violin); Eddie Lang (guitar), Min Leibrook (bass sax), Chauncey Morehouse (drums).

This recording did not turn out to be a hit, but success was just around the corner. In 1931, a pivotal and bittersweet year for Carmichael, “Star Dust” would appear on the pop charts five times, and “Georgia on My Mind” would become a number ten hit. But the good news was mixed with the bad; his college friend Bill Moenkhaus and fellow musician Bix Beiderbecke would both die at the age of twenty-eight.

The first chart appearance of “Georgia on My Mind” was courtesy of Frankie Trumbauer, the man who had suggested the song idea to Carmichael in the first place. The pop chart appearances included:

Ray Charles’ number one rendition in 1960 won the R&B crooner two Grammys for Best Performance by a Pop Single Artist and Best Vocal Performance Single Record or Track, Male. Willie Nelson’s 1979 recording won the Grammy for Best Country Vocal Performance, Male.


Chart information used by permission from
Joel Whitburn's Pop Memories 1890-1954

On April 24, 1979, the Joint Resolution of the Georgia General Assembly designated “Georgia on My Mind” as the official state song, citing that it

“... has an enduring quality that has made it one of the best loved songs in America for many years”

“... describes a Georgian’s love for his State, its beautiful melody and lyrics have given the song a worldwide appeal”

“... has been recorded by many outstanding artists, but the rendition by Mr. Ray Charles, a native Georgian, which was first recorded in 1958, has been greatly enjoyed by music lovers throughout the world”

More information on this tune...

Richard M. Sudhalter
Stardust Melody: The Life and Music of Hoagy Carmichael
Oxford University Press
Hardcover: 432 pages

(Carmichael’s biographer devotes three pages to the song’s history and a musical analysis.)
See the Reading and Research links on this page for additional references.

- Jeremy Wilson

Recommendations for This Tune
Click on any CD for more details at Amazon.com
Ray Charles
The Genius Hits the Road
1997 Rhino / WEA 72813
Original recording 1960
The direct jazz relevance of this Ray Charles performance is open to debate. However, there is very little debate that this deeply soulful version of “Georgia on My Mind” is the definitive rendition of the song.
David "Fathead" Newman
I Remember Brother Ray
2005 High Note 7135

Saxophonist Newman is closely associated with the music of Ray Charles and played on Charles’ original version of “Georgia.” Here, he takes a soulful and subtle turn on the song, paying tribute to his recently-deceased friend and former employer. Also featured prominently on this track are vibraphonist Steve Nelson and pianist John Hicks.
Ray Brown
Something for Lester
1991 Original Jazz Classics 412
Original recording 1977
Brown offers a preview of the soulful trio recordings that would augment his fame in the latter part of his career. His brilliant and prominently featured trio-mates here are pianist Cedar Walton and drummer Elvin Jones. They begin and end slowly, with a deep blues vibe, cranking up the tempo for a lengthy solo section in between.
J.J. Johnson/Kai Winding
The Great Kai and J.J
GRP 225
Original recording 1960
The contrasting styles of Johnson and Winding are always fascinating to hear in tandem, and they both shine on this slow, soulful performance. An added bonus is pianist Bill Evans, who displays his underrated blues feeling.
Shirley Horn
Light out of Darkness (A Tribute to Ray Charles)
1993 Polygram 19703

Horn, always a master of understatement, gives an arrestingly subtle performance of “Georgia” here. In addition to her usual brilliant vocals and piano, she interjects some tasteful organ.

- Noah Baerman

Rebecca Kilgore, Dave Frishberg
Not a Care in the World
Arbors Records

Vocalist Kilgore and pianist Frishberg are joined by guitarist Dan Faehnle for a gently swinging tribute to Georgia.
Frank Morgan
City Nights
2004, HighNote

The beauty of this CD, besides the playing of Morgan’s superb quartet, is that the altoist thoroughly investigates three standards--“Georgia on My Mind,” “Cherokee,” and “Summertime”--plus five contemporary compositions by Miles Davis, Monk, and Coltrane. Recorded live at the Jazz Standard.

- Sandra Burlingame

Elmo Hope Quartet
Hope Meets Foster
1991, Orig. Jazz Classics 1703
Original recording, 1955
Frank Foster’s robust tenor saxophone is bewitching on this fast-paced bop reading of the song.
Jimmy Smith
Any Number Can Win
1998, Polygram 557447
Original recording, 1963
Organist Jimmy Smith digs a groove with this bluesy and soulful take on the song. A dreamy choir in the back completes the hip ambience.
Bill Charlap
2002, Blue Note

Pianist Charlap expresses a real affinity for the material with this heartfelt and lyrical reading of the song. Peter Washington on bass and Kenny Washington on drums slow the rhythm right down to an introspective crawl.

- Ben Maycock

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