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We remember the Mercer-Carmichael tune 'Lazy Bones

One of the biggest hits in the Depression year of 1933 was Lazy Bones. The music was written by Hoagy Carmichael, words by Johnny Mercer.

Hoagy Carmichael
Hoagy Carmichaelalbum cover

The Mercer lyrics (offered for educational purposes only);

Long as there is chicken gravy on your rice,
Ev’rything is nice.
Long as there’s watermelon on the vine,
Ev’rything is fine.
You got no time to work,
You got no time to play,
Busy doin’ nothin’ all the live long day.
You won’t ever change no matter what I say,
You’re just made that way.

Lazy bones, Sleepin’ in the sun,
How you ‘spec’ to get your day’s work done?
Sleepin’ in the noonday sun.

Lazy bones, sleepin’ in the shade,
How you ‘spec’ to get your corn meal made?
Never get your corn meal made
Sleepin’ in the evenin’ shade.

When ‘taters need sprayin’,
I bet you keep prayin’
The bugs fall off the vine
And when you fishin’
I bet you keep wishin’
The fish won’t grab at your line.

Lazy bones, loafin’ thru the day,
You ‘spec’ to make a dime that way?
Never make a dime that way
(Well looky here)
He never heard a word I say!

Recordings by Ted Lewis and Mildred Bailey were the most popular at the time of the introduction of this 1933 classic. According to Carmichael, in an interview, Mercer came into Carmichael’s apartment in New York one day and saw Hoagy “snoozin’” on his couch. Mercer said, “Hoag, I’m gonna write a song called ‘Lazy Bones’.” Carmichael said, “Well, let’s get at it.”

They went over to Hoagy’s piano, Johnny said the first line and Hoagy started playing a melody. The song was done in twenty minutes. Both men have agreed on the time in separate interviews.

Mercer, hailing from Savannah, Georgia, resented the Tin Pan Alley attitude of rejecting southern regional vernacular in favor of artificial southern songs written by people who had never been to the South. Alex Wilder attributes much of the popularity of this song to Mercer’s perfect regional lyric.

He is best known as a lyricist, but he also composed music. He was also a popular singer who recorded his own songs as well as those written by others ( Note: Hoagy Carmichael was also a singer/composer).

From the mid-1930s through the mid-1950s, many of the songs Mercer wrote and performed were among the most popular hits of the time. He wrote the lyrics to more than fifteen hundred songs, including compositions for movies and Broadway shows. He received nineteen Academy Award nominations, and won four. Mercer was also a co-founder of Capitol Records.