Benjamin David Goodman (May 30, 1909 ? June 13, 1986) was an American jazz musician, clarinetist and bandleader, known as "King of Swing", "Patriarch of the Clarinet", "The Professor", and "Swing's Senior Statesman".
In the mid-1930s, Goodman led one of the most popular musical groups in America. His January 16, 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City is described by critic Bruce Eder as "the single most important jazz or popular music concert in history: jazz's 'coming out' party to the world of 'respectable' music."
Goodman's bands launched the careers of many major names in jazz, and during an era of segregation, he also led one of the first racially-integrated musical groups. Goodman continued to perform to nearly the end of his life, including exploring his interest in classical music.
Childhood and early years
Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois, the ninth of twelve children of poor Jewish immigrants from the Russian Empire, who lived in the Maxwell Street neighborhood. His father was David Goodman, a tailor from Warsaw; his mother was Dora Rezinski (from Kaunas). His parents met in Baltimore, Maryland, and moved to Chicago before Benny was born.
When Benny was 10, his father enrolled him and two of his older brothers in music lessons at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue. The next year he joined the boys club band at Jane Addams' Hull House, where he received lessons from director James Sylvester. He also received two years of instruction from the classically trained clarinetist Franz Schoepp. His early influences were New Orleans jazz clarinetists working in Chicago, notably Johnny Dodds, Leon Roppolo, and Jimmy Noone. Goodman learned quickly, becoming a strong player at an early age: he was soon playing professionally in various bands.
When Goodman was 16, he joined one of Chicago's top bands, the Ben Pollack Orchestra, with which he made his first recordings in 1926. He made his first record on Vocalion under his own name two years later. Goodman recorded with the regular Pollack band and smaller groups drawn from the orchestra through 1929. The side sessions produced scores of sides recorded for the various dime-store record labels under an array of group names, including Mills' Musical Clowns, Goody's Good Timers, The Hotsy Totsy Gang, Jimmy Backen's Toe Ticklers, Dixie Daisies, and Kentucky Grasshoppers.
Goodman's father, David, was a working-class immigrant about whom Benny said (interview, Downbeat, February 8, 1956); "...Pop worked in the stockyards, shoveling lard in its unrefined state. He had those boots, and he'd come home at the end of the day exhausted, stinking to high heaven, and when he walked in it made me sick. I couldn't stand it. I couldn't stand the idea of Pop every day standing in that stuff, shoveling it around".
On December 9, 1926, David Goodman was killed in a traffic accident. Benny had recently joined the Pollack band and was urging his father to retire, since he and his brother (Harry) were now doing well as professional musicians. According to James Lincoln Collier, "Pop looked Benny in the eye and said, 'Benny, you take care of yourself, I'll take care of myself.'" Collier continues: "It was an unhappy choice. Not long afterwards, as he was stepping down from a streetcar ? according to one story ? he was struck by a car. He never regained consciousness and died in the hospital the next day. It was a bitter blow to the family, and it haunted Benny to the end that his father had not lived to see the success he, and some of the others, made of themselves." "Benny described his father's death as 'the saddest thing that ever happened in our family.'"
Goodman left for New York City and became a successful session musician during the late 1920s and early 1930s (mostly with Ben Pollack's band between 1926 and 1929). He played with the nationally known bands of Ben Selvin, Red Nichols, Isham Jones (although he is not on any of Jones's records), and Ted Lewis. He recorded sides for Brunswick under the name Bennie Goodman's Boys, a band that featured Glenn Miller. In 1928, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller wrote the instrumental "Room 1411", which was released as a Brunswick 78. He also recorded musical soundtracks for movie shorts; some fans believe that Benny Goodman's clarinet can be heard on the soundtrack of One A. M., a Charlie Chaplin comedy re-released to theaters in 1934.
During this period as a successful session musician, John Hammond arranged for a series of jazz sides recorded for and issued on Columbia starting in 1933 and continuing until his signing with Victor in 1935, during his success on radio. There were also a number of commercial studio sides recorded for Melotone between late 1930 and mid-1931 under Goodman's name. The all-star Columbia sides featured Jack Teagarden, Joe Sullivan, Dick McDonough, Arthur Schutt, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, Coleman Hawkins (for 1 session), and vocalists Jack Teagarden and Mildred Bailey, and the first two recorded vocals by a young Billie Holiday.
In 1934 Goodman auditioned for NBC's Let's Dance, a well regarded radio program that featured various styles of dance music. His familiar theme song by that title was based on Invitation to the Dance by Carl Maria von Weber. Since he needed new arrangements every week for the show, his agent, John Hammond, suggested that he purchase "hot" (swing) arrangements from Fletcher Henderson, an African-American musician from Atlanta who had New York's most popular African-American band in the 1920s and early 1930s.
Goodman, a wise businessman, helped Henderson in 1929 when the stock market crashed. He purchased all of Henderson's song books, and hired Henderson's band members to teach his musicians how to play the music.
The combination of Goodman's solid clarinet playing, the Henderson arrangements, and the well-rehearsed band made Goodman a rising star in the mid-1930s and Chick Webb passed over his "King of Swing" title to Goodman. In early 1935, Goodman and his band were one of three bands featured on Let's Dance where they played arrangements by Henderson along with hits such as Get Happy and Jingle Bells from composer and arranger Spud Murphy. Goodman's radio broadcasts from New York aired too late to attract a large East Coast audience. However, unknown to him, the time slot gave him an avid following on the West Coast. He and his band remained on Let's Dance until May of that year when a strike forced the cancellation of the radio show. An engagement was booked at Manhattan's Roosevelt Grill but the crowd there expected 'sweet' music and Goodman's band was unsuccessful.
The band then set out on a tour of America, but was still poorly received. By August 1935, Goodman found himself with a band that was nearly broke, disillusioned and ready to quit.
Catalyst for the Swing Era
In July 1935, a record of the Goodman band playing the Henderson arrangements of "King Porter Stomp" backed with "Sometimes I'm Happy," Victor 78 25090, had been released to ecstatic reviews in both Down Beat and Melody Maker. This had made little impact on the band's tour until August 19 when they arrived in Oakland to play at McFadden's Ballroom. There, Goodman and his artists Gene Krupa, Bunny Berigan, and Helen Ward found a large crowd of young dancers, raving and cheering the hot music they had heard on the "Let's Dance" radio show. Herb Caen wrote that "from the first note, the place was in an uproar." One night later, at Pismo Beach, the show was another flop, and the band thought the overwhelming reception in Oakland had been a fluke.
The next night, August 21, 1935 at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, Goodman and his band began a three-week engagement. On top of the "Let's Dance" airplay, Al Jarvis had been playing Goodman records on KFWB radio, and Los Angeles fans were primed to hear him in person. Goodman started the evening with stock arrangements, but after an indifferent response, began the second set with the arrangements by Fletcher Henderson and Spud Murphy. According to Willard Alexander, the band's booking agent, Krupa said "If we're gonna die, Benny, let's die playing our own thing." The crowd broke into cheers and applause. News reports spread word of the enthusiastic dancing and exciting new music that was happening. Over the course of the engagement, the "Jitterbug" began to appear as a new dance craze, and radio broadcasts carried the band's performances across the nation.
The Palomar engagement was such a marked success it is often exaggeratedly described as the beginning of the swing era. Donald Clarke wrote "It is clear in retrospect that the Swing Era had been waiting to happen, but it was Goodman and his band that touched it off."
In November 1935 Goodman accepted an invitation to play in Chicago at the Joseph Urban Room at the Congress Hotel. His stay there extended to six months and his popularity was cemented by nationwide radio broadcasts over NBC affiliate stations. While in Chicago, the band recorded a number of hits, including If I Could Be With You, Stompin' At The Savoy, and Goody, Goody. As well, Goodman played three special concerts produced by jazz aficionado and Chicago socialite Helen Oakley. These "Rhythm Club" concerts at the Congress Hotel included sets in which Goodman and Krupa sat in with Fletcher Henderson's band, perhaps the first racially integrated big band appearance before a paying audience in the United States. Goodman and Krupa played in a trio with Teddy Wilson on piano. Both combinations were well-received, and Wilson stayed on.
In his 1935?1936 radio broadcasts from Chicago, Goodman was introduced as the "Rajah of Rhythm." Slingerland Drum Company had been calling Krupa the "King of Swing" as part of a sales campaign, but shortly after Goodman and crew left Chicago in May 1936 to spend the summer filming The Big Broadcast of 1937 in Hollywood, the title "King of Swing" was applied to Goodman by the media.
Carnegie Hall concert
In bringing jazz to Carnegie, , in effect, smuggling American contraband into the halls of European high culture, and Goodman and his 15 men pull it off with the audacity and precision of Ocean's Eleven.
All Benny Goodman lyrics
- Afraid To Dream
- And The Angles Sing
- Bob White
- Darn That Dream
- Don't Be That Way
- Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye
- Good Night My Love
- Goody Goody
- Gotta Be This Or That (Jane Harvey)
- How High The Moon
- I Let A Song Go Out Of My Heart
- It Had To Be You
- It's Been So Long
- Jersey Bounce
- Memories Of You
- Moon Glow
- Somebody Else Is Taking My Place (Peggy Lee)
- Star Dust
- Stompin At The Savoy
- Taking A Chance On Love
- The Glory Of Love
- There'll Be Some Changes Made
- These Foolish Things
- This Can't Be Love
- This Year's Kisses
- You Took The Words Right Out Of My Heart
- You Turned The Tables On Me
- You're A Heavenly Thing
All lyrics are property of their respective owners and are strictly for non-commercial use only.