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Benny Goodman

Benjamin David Goodman
"King of Swing"

Clarinetist, Bandleader, Composer

(1909 - 1986)

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Benny Goodman learned clarinet at his synagogue, bolstered by two years of classical training. He made his professional debut at 12 and became part of the rich Chicago jazz scene, steeped in the music of New Orleans. Goodman first recorded in 1926 and spent several years as a first-call musician in New York. His 1934 band was broadcast on the popular “Let’s Dance” radio show which aired coast to coast. An otherwise unsuccessful tour in 1935 ended in a smash hit in Los Angeles where the audience went wild. Thus, it is said, swing was born and Goodman became its King.

The band included trumpeter Bunny Berigan, vocalist Helen Ward, and Gene Krupa, the explosive drummer who was seminal to the band’s swinging sound. In 1937 Harry James, Ziggy Elman, and Vido Musso joined the band. Success was due to Goodman’s hiring the best arrangers such as Fletcher Henderson (whom he credited with creating the swing sound), and the best players (whom he rehearsed hard). He was one of the first to feature band members in small settings and the first to racially integrate a band with such greats as Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Ella Fitzgerald, and Jimmy Rushing.

As a composer Goodman contributed to ”Stompin’ at the Savoy,” “Seven Come Eleven,” “Air Mail Special,” “Flying Home,” “Don’t Be That Way,” ”Lullaby in Rhythm,” “If Dreams Come True,” and “Soft Winds.”

Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert was a first for a jazz group in such a venerable setting and remains one of jazz’s high points. The band enjoyed many top ten hits a year and was featured in several films, the first being The Big Broadcast of 1937. Goodman’s appearance as an actor in the film A Song Is Born (1948) is delightful.

After he disbanded the orchestra in 1949 he continued to organize groups for tours and recording sessions. As a virtuoso clarinetist, he became the first jazz musician to gain critical acclaim in the classical world, as early as 1935, and he continued to perform with many symphony orchestras.

- Sandra Burlingame

Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert

Benny Goodman

Stompin' at the Savoy

Benny Goodman

Seven Come Eleven

Benny Goodman

Seven, Come Eleven

Herb Ellis, Joe Pass, Ray Brown, Jake Hanna

Airmail Special

Jay McShann

Flyin' Home

Illinois Jacquet

Don't Be That Way: 1935-1940

Jimmy Dorsey

Lullaby in Rhythm: A Tribute to June Christy

Stephanie Nakasian

If Dreams Come True

Eddie Higgins

Soft Winds

Kenny Burrell

Soft Winds

The Ron Eschete Trio, Todd Johnson, Paul Humphrey
Reading and Viewing

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Ross Firestone

Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life & Times of Benny Goodman

W. W. Norton & Company

James Lincoln Collier

Benny Goodman and the Swing Era

Oxford University Press


Down Beat: Sixty Years of Jazz

Hal Leonard Corporation

Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman - Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing (2000)


Swing Era: Benny Goodman



Steve Allen, Donna Reed, Berta Gersten, Barry Truex, Herbert Anderson

The Benny Goodman Story

Universal Studios


Nelson Eddy, Dinah Shore, Benny Goodman

Make Mine Music (Disney Gold Classic Collection)

Walt Disney Video


Alice Faye, Carmen Miranda, Phil Baker, Benny Goodman

The Gang's All Here

20th Century Fox


Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman Live At the Tivoli

Kultur Video


Carl Reiner, Neil Simon, Mel Tolkin, Sid Caesar, Benny Goodman, Woody Allen, Larry Gelbart, Danny Simon, Howard Morris, Mel Brooks, Nanette Fabray

Sid Caesar Collection - The Magic of Live TV

Creative Light


Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman: U.S.A. - Europe (1999)


Danny Kaye, Virginia Mayo, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Louis Armstrong

A Song is Born [VHS]

Hbo Home Video


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