Benny Goodman

Jazz Musician, Clarinetist and Bandleader Benny Goodman

Profession: Jazz Musician, Clarinetist and Bandleader

United States of America

Biography: Known as the "King of Swing", Goodman was an early jazz clarinetist and band leader.

He was the 8th of 12 children born to Russian immigrants who had settled in Chicago. At the age of 10, he began music lessons at his synagogue taught by a member of the Chicago Symphony.

Goodman began playing professionally within 2 years, and at the age of 14 received his union card. His father died when struck by a car, and the next year the young musician moved to Los Angeles to join the Ben Pollack Band, to help support his family.

By 1929 he was a featured soloist with the Pollack band, but the Great Depression curtailed performance work. He moved to New York and worked tirelessly as a session musician, and getting to know many musicians that he would later recruit for his own band.

Through the 1930s, his band was one of the most popular in America, gaining audience interest through weekly live radio broadcasts on the "Let's Dance" program. Popular songs include "Stompin' At The Savoy"; "Sing, Sing, Sing"; "Moonglow", and "Don't Be That Way". Their Carnegie Hall concert in 1938 has been described as "jazz's 'coming out' party to the world of 'respectable' music."

Notably, Goodman's band was integrated despite the era being one of racial segregation. Teddy Wilson on piano, Lionel Hampton on vibraphones, arranger Fletcher Henderson, and guitarist Charlie Christian were featured in both his orchestra and smaller group settings.

With the decline in popularity of swing music, he returned to his classical roots recording and/or performing works by Mozart, Weber, Stravinsky, Bartok, Hindemith, Poulenc, and Copland.

A mid-1950s film biography (starring Steve Allen) rekindled interest in his career and popular music, He continued performing and touring internationally, usually with small groups, for the rest of his life, playing his last gig less than a week before his death.

Born: May 30, 1909
Birthplace: Chicago, Illinois, USA

Generation: Greatest Generation
Chinese Zodiac: Rooster
Star Sign: Gemini

Died: June 13, 1986 (aged 77)

Married Life

  • 1942-03-20 American clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman (32) weds American socialite Alice Frances Hammond Duckworth (28), until her death in 1978

Historical Events

  • 1936-01-24 Benny Goodman and His Orchestra record "Stompin' at the Savoy" for Victor Records in Chicago, Illinois
  • 1937-03-10 Benny Goodman unofficially crowned the “King of Swing” at New York City's Paramount Theater as his band plays before exuberant sell-out crowd filled with teenagers; unable to attend nightclub performances, kids dance in the aisles
  • 1938-01-16 1st jazz concert held at Carnegie Hall, performed by Benny Goodman and his band
  • 1939-10-24 Benny Goodman records "Let's Dance"
  • 1944-01-18 The Metropolitan Opera House in New York City hosts a jazz concert for the first time - performers include Louis Armstrong, Billie Holiday, Lionel Hampton, Mildred Bailey, Red Norvo, Roy Eldridge, Jack Teagarden, and Benny Goodman, via remote hook-up.
  • 1950-12-11 Paul Hindemith's Concerto for Clarinet premieres with Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Eugene Ormandy, and Benny Goodman as soloist, at the Academy of Music
  • 1973-08-18 Drummer Gene Krupa plays for the final time with the Benny Goodman Quartet

Biographies and Sources