Benny Goodman

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Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman, 1971
Background information
Birth name Benjamin David Goodman
Also known as "King of Swing", "The Professor", "Patriarch of the Clarinet", "Swing's Senior Statesman"
Born May 30, 1909(1909-05-30)
Origin Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died June 13, 1986(1986-06-13) (aged 77)
Genres Swing, big band
Occupations Musician, bandleader, songwriter
Instruments Clarinet
Years active 1926–1986

Benny Goodman, born Benjamin David Goodman,[1] (May 30, 1909June 13, 1986) was an American jazz musician who played the clarinet. He was called "The King of Swing", "Patriarch of the Clarinet", "The Professor", and "Swing's Senior Statesman".[2]

Life[change | edit source]

Early life[change | edit source]

Goodman was the son of poor Jewish immigrants in Chicago, Illinois. They lived in Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood. He learned to play clarinet in a boys' band run by a charity. He became a strong clarinet player at an early age, and began playing professionally in bands while still wearing 'in short pants'.

Early influences[change | edit source]

His early influences were New Orleans jazz clarinet players in Chicago such as Johnny Dodds, Leon Ropollo, and Jimmy Noone.

First band[change | edit source]

Goodman joined one of Chicago's top bands, the Ben Pollack Orchestra, at the age of 16, He made his first recordings with them in 1926. He started making records under his own name two years later.

Later life[change | edit source]

Goodman left for New York City. He became a good session musician during the late 1920s and early 1930s. He was known as a solid player because he was prepared and reliable. He played with the nationally known bands of Red Nichols, Isham Jones, and Ted Lewis. Then he formed his own band in 1932.

In 1934, he tried out for the "Let's Dance" radio program. Since he needed new charts every week for the show, his friend John Hammond suggested that he buy some jazz charts from Fletcher Henderson, who had New York's most popular African-American band in the 1920s and early 1930s. The combination of the Henderson charts, his strong clarinet playing, and his band that practiced well made him a rising star in the mid-30s.

Fame[change | edit source]

He performed at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on August 21, 1935. Because of this show, he became known across the United States His radio broadcasts from New York were too late at night for many people on the East Coast to hear them, but Goodman had many fans in California, and a very excited crowd greeted Goodman. This got a lot of attention across the nation, and made the Goodman Band popular very fast. Some writers have said that this was the start of the Swing Era.

Loss of fame[change | edit source]

Goodman continued his fast rise throughout the late 1930s with his big band, his trio and quartet, and a sextet. On January 16, 1938, his band made a famous appearance at Carnegie Hall. By the mid-1940s, big bands became less popular. Some reasons for this are that talented musicians were entering the military or getting better-paying factory jobs, gasoline and rubber rationing during WWII, two long musician recording strikes, and the rise of popular singers like Frank Sinatra.

Death[change | edit source]

Goodman continued to play on records and in small groups. He would sometimes organize a new band and play in a jazz festival, or go on a tour, playing in other countries. He continued to play the clarinet until he died in 1986 in in New York, New York.

Other projects[change | edit source]

Goodman also helped racial integration in America. In the early 1930s, black and white jazz musicians could not play together in most clubs or concerts. In the Southern states, racial segregation was enforced by law. Benny Goodman broke with tradition by hiring Teddy Wilson to play with him and drummer Gene Krupa in the Benny Goodman Trio. In 1936, he added Lionel Hampton on vibes to form the Benny Goodman Quartet. Goodman was so famous that his band could afford to not go on tour in the southern states, where the people in his band might have been arrested because of their race.

References[change | edit source]

  1. Firestone, Ross (1993). Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman. New York: Norton. pp. pp. 19.
  2. "Nicknames". http://www.bennygoodman.info/.