Benny Goodman
Benny Goodman

Born May 30, 1909 in Chicago, Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was known as the King of Swing with impeccable technique and delivery on clarinet. He was the first to have a racially integrated band, which means little now but that was in a time of deep segregation. He reached white middle class listeners with his music and was the first jazz band leader to be generally accepted and play jazz in concert in Carnegie Hall, 1938. He passed June 13, 1986, in New York City and was actively playing for almost all his life.

As a young session musician in New York Goodman wrote and played with Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Joe Venuti, Jack Teagarden and recorded twice with singer Billie Holiday.

In part, Benny took over the creativity of Fletcher Henderson whose band was failing financially. Benny needed arrangements for his regular appearance on the Nabisco sponsored national radio show Letʼs dance. Goodman purchased arrangements and had Fletcherʼs band teach the Goodman band the hot swing music but it was not well received and despite a tour by July 1935, the Benny Goodman band faced disaster. But Benny had not understood the power of radio and when the tour hit Oakland and the West Coast, they found an enthusiastic dancing audience ready for hot swing. Reports came in from Pittsburg of the success of his recordings there. So began the Swing Era in the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. Radio ensured his success and a recording of his Carnegie Hall Concert resurfaced in 1950 and has never been out of circulation since then.

In the 1940s, Benny had a brief flirtation with bebop and formed a group to play, but after a while he returned to Swing and was scathing about the damage bebop was doing to jazz. “Maybe Bop has done more to set music back for years than anything.” Benny Goodman was an unusual man, singer Lynne Roberts recalled a meeting in his New York office/apartment on 62nd Street where she was to rehearse with the great guitarist Bucky Pizarelli. Lynne commented it was cold in the apartment, Benny agreed, left the room and came back wearing a sweater.

Swing Benny Goodman Sing Sing Sing / Louis Prima 1935

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