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Benny Goodman

Benny Goodman was the first celebrated bandleader of the Swing Era, dubbed "The King of Swing," his popular emergence marking the beginning of the era. He was an accomplished clarinetist whose distinctive playing gave an identity both to his big band and to the smaller units he led simultaneously. The most popular figure of the first few years of the Swing Era, he continued to perform until his death 50 years later.

Goodman was the son of Russian immigrants David Goodman, a tailor, and Dora Rezinsky Goodman. He first began taking clarinet lessons at ten at a synagogue, after which he joined the band at Hull House, a settlement home. He made his professional debut at 12 and dropped out of high school at 14 to become a musician. At 16, in August 1925, he joined the Ben Pollack band, with which he made his first released band recordings in December 1926. His first recordings under his own name were made in January 1928. At 20, in September 1929, he left Pollack to settle in New York and work as a freelance musician, working at recording sessions, radio dates, and in the pit bands of Broadway musicals. He also made recordings under his own name with pickup bands, first reaching the charts with "He's Not Worth Your Tears" (vocal by Scrappy Lambert) on Melotone Records in January 1931. He signed to Columbia Records in the fall of 1934 and reached the Top Ten in early 1934 with "Ain't Cha Glad?" (vocal by Jack Teagarden), "Riffin' the Scotch" (vocal by Billie Holiday), and "Ol' Pappy" (vocal by Mildred Bailey), and in the spring with "I Ain't Lazy, I'm Just Dreamin'" (vocal by Jack Teagarden).

These record successes and an offer to perform at Billy Rose's Music Hall inspired Goodman to organize a permanent performing orchestra, which gave its first performance on June 1, 1934. His instrumental recording of "Moon Glow" hit number one in July, and he scored two more Top Ten hits in the fall with the instrumentals "Take My Word" and "Bugle Call Rag." After a four-and-a-half-month stay at the Music Hall, he was signed for the Saturday night Let's Dance program on NBC radio, playing the last hour of the three-hour show. During the six months he spent on the show, he scored another six Top Ten hits on Columbia, then switched to RCA Victor, for which he recorded five more Top Ten hits by the end of the year.

After leaving Let's Dance, Goodman undertook a national tour in the summer of 1935. It was not particularly successful until he reached the West Coast, where his segment of Let's Dance had been heard three hours earlier than on the East Coast. His performance at the Palomar Ballroom near Los Angeles on August 21, 1935, was a spectacular success, remembered as the date on which the Swing Era began. He moved on to a six-month residency at the Congress Hotel in Chicago, beginning in November. He scored 15 Top Ten hits in 1936, including the chart-toppers "It's Been So Long," "Goody-Goody," "The Glory of Love," "These Foolish Things Remind Me of You," and "You Turned the Tables on Me" (all vocals by Helen Ward). He became the host of the radio series The Camel Caravan, which ran until the end of 1939, and in October 1936, the orchestra made its film debut in The Big Broadcast of 1937. The same month, Goodman began a residency at the Pennsylvania Hotel in New York.

Goodman's next number one hit, in February 1937, featured Ella Fitzgerald on vocals and was the band's first hit with new trumpeter Harry James. It was also the first of six Top Ten hits during the year, including the chart-topping "This Year's Kisses" (vocal by Margaret McCrae). In December, the band appeared in another film, Hollywood Hotel. The peak of Goodman's renown in the 1930s came on January 16, 1938, when he performed a concert at Carnegie Hall, but he went on to score 14 Top Ten hits during the year, among them the number ones "Don't Be That Way" (an instrumental) and "I Let a Song Go out of My Heart" (vocal by Martha Tilton), as well as the thrilling instrumental "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a Swing)," which later was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

By 1939, Goodman had lost such major instrumentalists as Gene Krupa and Harry James, who left to found their own bands, and he faced significant competition from newly emerged bandleaders such as Artie Shaw and Glenn Miller. But he still managed to score eight Top Ten hits during the year, including the chart-topper "And the Angels Sing" (vocal by Martha Tilton), another inductee to the Grammy Hall of Fame. He returned to Columbia Records in the fall. In November, he appeared in the Broadway musical Swingin' the Dream, leading a sextet. The show was short-lived, but it provided him with the song "Darn That Dream" (vocal by Mildred Bailey), which hit number one for him in March 1940. It was the first of only three Top Ten hits he scored in 1940, his progress slowed by illness; in July he disbanded temporarily and underwent surgery for a slipped disk, not reorganizing until October. He scored two Top Ten hits in 1941, one of which was the chart-topper "There'll Be Some Changes Made" (vocal by Louise Tobin), and he returned to radio with his own show. Among his three Top Ten hits in 1942 were the number ones "Somebody Else Is Taking My Place" (vocal by Peggy Lee) and the instrumental "Jersey Bounce." He also appeared in the film Syncopation, released in May.

American entry into World War II and the onset of the recording ban called by the American Federation of Musicians in August 1942 made things difficult for all performers. Goodman managed to score a couple of Top Ten hits, including the number one "Taking a Chance on Love" (vocal by Helen Forrest), in 1943, drawn from material recorded before the start of the ban. And he used his free time to work in films, appearing in three during the year: The Powers Girl (January), Stage Door Canteen (July), and The Gang's All Here (December).

Goodman disbanded in March 1944. He appeared in the film Sweet and Low-Down in September and played with a quintet in the Broadway revue Seven Lively Arts, which opened December 7 and ran 182 performances. Meanwhile, the musicians union strike was settled, freeing him to go back into the recording studio. In April 1945, his compilation album Hot Jazz reached the Top Ten on the newly instituted album charts. He reorganized his big band and scored three Top Ten hits during the year, among them "Gotta Be This or That" (vocal by Benny Goodman), which just missed hitting number one. "Symphony" (vocal by Liza Morrow) also came close to hitting number one in early 1946, and Benny Goodman Sextet Session did hit number one on the album charts in May 1946. Goodman hosted a radio series with Victor Borge in 1946-1947, and he continued to record, switching to Capitol Records. He appeared in the film A Song Is Born in October 1948 and meanwhile experimented with bebop in his big band. But in December 1949, he disbanded, though he continued to organize groups on a temporary basis for tours and recording sessions.

If popular music had largely passed Goodman by as of 1950, his audience was not tired of listening to his vintage music. He discovered a recording that had been made of his 1938 Carnegie Hall concert and Columbia Records released it on LP in November 1950 as Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert, Vol. 1 & 2. It spent a year in the charts, becoming the best-selling jazz album ever up to that time, and was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. A follow-up album of airchecks, Benny Goodman 1937-1938: Jazz Concert No. 2, hit number one in December 1952. The rise of the high fidelity 12" LP led Goodman to re-record his hits for the Capitol album B.G. in Hi-Fi, which reached the Top Ten in March 1955. A year later, he had another Top Ten album of re-recordings with the soundtrack album for his film biography, The Benny Goodman Story, in which he was portrayed by Steve Allen but dubbed in his own playing.

After a tour of the Far East in 1956-1957, Goodman increasingly performed overseas. His 1962 tour of the U.S.S.R. resulted in the chart album Benny Goodman in Moscow. In 1963, RCA Victor staged a studio reunion of the Benny Goodman Quartet of the 1930s, featuring Goodman, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton. The result was the 1964 chart album Together Again! Goodman recorded less frequently in his later years, though he reached the charts in 1971 with Benny Goodman Today, recorded live in Stockholm. His last album to be released before his death from a heart attack at 77 was Let's Dance, a television soundtrack, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Performance, Big Band.

Goodman's lengthy career and his popular success especially in the 1930s and '40s has resulted in an enormous catalog. His major recordings are on Columbia and RCA Victor, but Music Masters has put out a series of archival discs from his personal collection, and many small labels have issued airchecks. The recordings continue to demonstrate Goodman's remarkable talents as an instrumentalist and as a bandleader. ~ William Ruhlmann
full bio

Selected Discography


Track List: The Chronological Benny Goodman 1947 Volume 2

3. Nagasaki

7. On A Slow Boat To China

8. Sweet And Lovely

11. Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams

12. Blue

14. All I Do Is Dream Of You

15. I'll Never Be The Same

16. Bye Bye Pretty Baby

20. All I Do Is Dream Of You

21. Stompin' At The Savoy

22. You Turned The Tables On Me


Track List: The Chronological 1946-1947

4. Poor Butterfly

8. I'll Always Be In Love With You

9. Honeysuckle Rose

15. Sweet Georgia Brown

16. I'll Always Be In Love With You

17. Sweet Lorraine

18. St. Louis Blues

19. I Know That You Know

20. I Can't Get Started

21. The Lonesome Road

22. Fine And Dandy

25. I Never Knew


Track List: The Very Best Of Benny Goodman

1. Bugle Call Rag

2. St. Louis Blues

3. Swingtime In The Rockies

4. One O'Clock Jump

5. Exactly Like You

6. Sweet Georgia Brown

7. I Know That You Know

8. And The Angels Sing

9. Stompin' At The Savoy

10. After You've Gone

11. Avalon

12. In A Sentimental Mood

13. The Glory Of Love

14. Goody Goody

15. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (Part 1)

16. Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen (Part 2)

17. I Cried For You

18. Moonglow

19. King Porter Stomp

20. Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing) (Parts 1 & 2)


Track List: The Complete Capitol Trios

1. Blue (And Broken Hearted)

2. After Hours

3. All I Do Is Dream Of You

4. I'll Never Be The Same

5. Bye Bye Pretty Baby

6. Shoe Shine Boy

7. At Sundown

8. When You're Smiling

9. All I Do Is Dream Of You (2nd Version)

10. Stompin' At The Savoy

11. Mean To Me

12. Puttin' On The Ritz

13. I Never Knew

14. Lazy River

15. There'll Be Some Changes Made

16. Ev'rything I've Got (Belongs To You)

17. But Not For Me

18. Margie

19. Rose Room

20. What Can I Say After I Say I'm Sorry


Track List: More Greatest Hits

1. Don't Be That Way

2. Goody Goody

3. One O'Clock Jump

4. And The Angels Sing

5. Avalon

6. Loch Lomond

7. Sometimes I'm Happy

8. Basin Street Blues

9. If I Could Be With You (One Hour Tonight)

10. Sing Me A Swing Song (And Let Me Dance)

11. These Foolish Things Remind Me of You

12. Somebody Loves Me

13. Star Dust

14. You Can't Pull The Wool Over My Eyes

15. Riffin' At The Ritz

16. Here's Love In Your Eyes

17. I Would Do Anything For You

18. Thanks For The Memory


Track List: Greatest Hits

1. Stompin' At The Savoy

2. Body And Soul

3. Get Happy

4. King Porter Stomp

5. Goodbye

6. Always

7. Moonglow

8. Goodnight, My Love

9. You Turned The Tables On Me

10. After You've Gone

11. Bugle Call Rag

12. Tea For Two

13. Love Me Or Leave Me

14. In A Sentimental Mood

15. Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)


Track List: Sing, Sing, Sing

1. King Porter Stomp

2. Sometimes I'm Happy

3. Basin Street Blues

4. If I Could Be With You

5. Goody Goody

6. Christopher Columbus

7. Sing Me A Swing Song

8. (I Would Do) Anything For You

9. These Foolish Things

10. Down South Camp Meeting

11. Bugle Call Rag

12. Goodnight My Love

13. He Ain't Got Rythm

14. I Want To Be Happy

15. Roll 'Em

16. Thanks For The Memory

17. Don't Be That Way

18. One O'Clock Jump

19. Ti-Pin-Ti

20. Sing, Sing, Sing

21. Goodbye


Track List: After You've Gone

1. After You've Gone

2. Body And Soul

3. Who

4. Someday Sweetheart

5. China Boy

6. More Than You Know

7. All My Life

8. Oh Lady Be Good

9. Nobody's Sweetheart

10. Too Good To Be True

11. Moonglow

12. Dinah

13. Exactly Like You

14. Vibraphone Blues

15. Sweet Sue

16. My Melancholy Baby

17. Tiger Rag

18. Stompin' At The Savoy

19. Whispering

20. Ida, Sweet As Apple Cider

21. Tea For Two

22. Runnin' Wild


Track List: A String Of Pearls

5. Gone With What Draft


Track List: Ain't Misbehavin'

5. Ain't Misbehavin'


Track List: Benny Goodman: The Formative Years (1926-1931)

25. Farewell Blues


Track List: Featuring Charlie Christian

1. Flying Home

2. Stardust

3. Memories Of You

4. Soft Winds

5. Shivers

6. AC/DC Current

7. I'm Confessing (That I Love You)

8. The Shiek Of Araby

9. Poor Butterfly

10. I Surrender, Dear

11. These Foolish Things

12. Good Enough To Keep

13. Breakfast Feud

14. I Can't Gve You Anything But Love, Baby

15. Gilly

16. On the Alamo

17. Gone With What Draft

18. A Smo-o-o-oth One


Track List: If I Had You

4. St. Louis Blues

5. Stealin' Apples

13. Memories Of You


Track List: Oh Lady Be Good!

5. Frankie & Johnny


Track List: The Complete Benny Goodman (1934-1936)


Track List: The Complete Benny Goodman (1939-1941)

2. Ac-Dc Current

5. Breakfast Feud

6. Flying Home

9. Honeysuckle Rose

14. Poor Butterfly

19. Soft Winds

21. Stardust


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Amen brother Amen that is a great cd
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I have a CD of Goodman's 1938 concert at Carnegie Hall, which featured the drum work of Gene Krupa on Sing, Sing. Sing. The way he drove the band on this number is classic. It's one of the best examples of big band drumming that I've ever heard and was the highlight of the concert. The Goodman 1938 band was one of the best swing bands ever! Thanks BG for all the great music.
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2006 gt real 1930,s era ??????
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How can you not love the musical prowess of Goodman?
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Gene and Benny were an unbeatable pair. I only saw Gene perform live once in my life, on my prom night. He was at the Metropole cafe in NYC. My boyfriend had to bribe the bouncer to let us in because we were underage. Still fantastic after all those years.
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Am I right?
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I am pretty sure that this is the song from the Benny Goodman movie where they are in the cafe and they all go up on stage and start jamming.
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Saw a video on Utube with Gene Krupa on drums and Harry James on Trumpet. Wow.
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Drummer was Gene Krupa, for Benny Goodman's SING, SING, SING the best all time drummer
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I should have been born in the last century but fate wanted me here
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who is the Drummer?
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dragonlady60 8 8
My father had all the BIG BANDS MUSIC...I LOVE IT...
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dragonlady60 8 8
Wow another GREAT
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Hard to choose between clarinet immortals Benny Goodman and Artie Shaw. Perhaps a better idea to just enjoy them both as part of the greatest generation's greatest genre.
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You can not sit still with song on..Love big band music!!!
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The Big Bands a BIG fan. Easy sounds
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The first jazz I heard was BG playing Slipped Disk. Now, from your discussion, I see that this referred to his actual condition! I loved it and have never been the same.
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sing, sing, sing is my favorite
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Goog song I love all
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Love, love, love!
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0-)!xkkyxpy@ 7 p y ! o 1 r !
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I was born at the wrong time - I love this music!
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MERAVIGLIOSO !!!!!!!!!!!! !
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If THIS does not get your fingers and your toes tapping then, I, Don't know WHAT WILL!!!!! martycollins 3 . You really have it correct! He had natural yes, but IT IS, Rare to find such a gifted musician who is dedicated to devote so much time, refining oneself into Such a fine tuned work of art!!!
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Amen to fredm773
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Love big band and swing I'm 51 and feel like I should have been born in the 20's not the 60's
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What type of song is this?
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all good ones
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he was trained in the classical style. Natural talent yes, but today's musicians rarely invest the time to train and develop their skills. He was the greatest because he leveraged his talent by working at it!
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david.a.haig h t
Greatest of the clarinetist! Great job!
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But not for me - Benny Goodman off his More greatest Hits album; Great stuff
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Very tragic!
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The reason this generation are out of tune is they don't want to go to a music school to learn how to play an instrument.t h e y like to bang on a instrument until it breaks.
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PS I'm KenwadeP's other half. We are both veterans who love great music
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Are there in military bands out there that you can get on Pandora? Was a member of the UsAF WAF (Women of th Air Force) Band and would to listento some military band music onc in a while. The USAF WAF Band is now known as the WAF Band and we still get together once a year and play our music whichh was marches, the popular songs of the 50's as well as classical. Love the old band sounds still and since I play the clarinet love Benny Goodman
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But not for me - Benny Goodman; nice, and great for dancing in the old fashioned way. Often put off Benny when he gets too blarey. but this track is cool, calm and controlled
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But not for me - Benny Goodman; nice, and great for dancing in the old fashioned way. Often put off Benny when he gets to blarey. but this track is cool, calm and controlled.
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Oh my goodness, this brings me back 60 years (I'm 80) to the good old days when music was music. I started listening to the Big Bands when I was a teenager. My wife and I used to love dancing to this music and the good old Rock and Roll of the 50's. Too bad it all has gone by the wayside.
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When I was about 13 I stared listing to the big bands at night as I lay in bed, I'm 85 years old and I still can remember just about all the songs and what great dance music. The music today is never going to as good as the big bands
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I cannot stop dancing when this comes up. I think I was born in the wrong time.
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New Zealand army band plays this song
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Harry James really wails on this song! He had great chops, man!
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mjtitaniclov e r 4 l i f e
Tower of Terror anyone?
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Reminds me of that movie RADIO DAYS.
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