Benjamin David Goodman was born May 30, 1909, and he was known as the "King of Swing," "The Professor," "Patriarch of the Clarinet" and "Swing's Senior Statesman."
Goodman was the son of poor Jewish immigrants in Chicago. They lived in Chicago's Maxwell Street neighborhood. He learned to play clarinet in a boy's band run by a charity. He became a strong clarinet player at an early age and began playing professionally in bands while still "in short pants."
His early influences were New Orleans jazz clarinet players in Chicago such as Johnny Dodds, Leon Ropollo and Jimmy Noone. 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.
Goodman left for New York City, and 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 bought some jazz charts from Fletcher Henderson, and 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.
He performed at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on Aug. 21, 1935, and he became known across the United States, as his radio broadcasts got a lot of attention across the nation. Some writers have said this was the start of the Swing Era.
Goodman continued his fast rise throughout the late 1930s with his big band, his trio, quartet and a sextet. On Jan. 16, 1938, his band made a famous appearance at Carnegie Hall. Goodman helped racial integration in America 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 continued to play on records and in small groups. He sometimes would organize a new band and play in a jazz festival or go on tour, playing in other countries. He continued to play the clarinet until he died of a heart attack June 13, 1986, in New York City.
On Sunday, I will have a music chat about Benny Goodman, playing his music, such as "Sing, Sing, Sing," and reviewing his movie, "The Benny Goodman Story." Join me at the Society for the Preservation of Big Band Swing from 2 to 4 p.m. Sunday in the Hays Public Library gallery. Refreshments will be provided. Swing on in.
Harry Watts, Hays, is an AARP Community Service Volunteer.