Monday, May 30, 2016

Benny Goodman: The King Of Swing

Today we recognize the birthday on May 30, 1909, of clarinetist and bandleader, Benny Goodman.

A candid photo of the King of Swing taken about 1970

In 1935, Goodman's orchestra performed regularly on an NBC Radio program entitled, "Let's Dance." It was broadcast live across the country. Young people in the East were fast asleep when his orchestra hit the airways, but it was perfect timing for the West Coast. A strike ended the broadcasts after a few months and the band decided on a coast to coast tour. In the interior states, the tour was a disaster because people didn't care for "upbeat" jazz arranged for orchestra. The band was looking forward to the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles as the last stop and an end to the pain. When they arrived, thousands of young fans who had heard them on the radio were waiting to hear them in person. What was to be a welcome end to a disastrous tour turned into the beginning of the Swing Era.

Eighteen months later on January 16, 1938, the now famous Goodman Orchestra presented a jazz review in Carnegie Hall. Music historians generally regard this legendary performance as the most important concert in the history of jazz and popular music. After the performance jazz was quickly accepted as mainstream American music.

The concert closed with Sing, Sing Sing featuring Gene Krupa on drums, Harry James, Ziggy Elman and Chris Griffin on trumpet and Jess Stacy's celebrated response to Goodman's nod for an unexpected piano solo. I think this performance alone would have changed the world of music. 


Photos and Illustrations:

public domain photo, author unknown,

Benny Goodman entry,

No comments: