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I used to always go over to my grandparent’s house and watch my grandfather go crazy over this “Jazz” music. He explained to me that it wasn’t Jazz unless it swung like the greats. I listened to a song “Sing Sing Sing” the other day from one of my Jazz collections that my grandpa gave to me and realized that their was so much energy and pizzazz in this music. He explained to me that it was all put together by a guy named Benny, and I understood why.

Benny Goodman, born Benjamin David in 1909, one of twelve children, grew up in a Chicago ghetto with his family, who fled Russian anti-Semitism. Encouraged by his father, an immigrant tailor, to learn a musical instrument, Goodman took up the clarinet at a young age. From the start, he displayed an exceptional talent. Before he was in his teens, he had begun performing in public. He received his first true clarinet and musical training from a local synagogue, then continued practice through Hull House, a social-service agency for the under privileged children of the Chicago. The most important of his teachers, at the school, was Franz Schoeppe, a classical instructor from the Chicago Musical College who ignored jazz and stressed in his students the discipline and respect for classical music.

After his father died, fourteen-year-old Benny helped support his family by playing at a Chicago neighborhood dance hall and working locally for two years. In 1925, Gil Rodin, who was then with the band led by Ben Pollack, heard him. Goodman was hired by Pollack, then working in California, and the following year made a triumphal return to Chicago as featured soloist with the band. Goodman remained with Pollack until 1929, when he became a much in-demand session musician in New York. When the band was between jobs, Goodman jammed with members of the Austin High Gang who introduced him to the New Orleans Rhythm Kings and the Dixieland clarinet style of Leon Rappolo. After his 17th birthday Benny made his first recording with Pollack's band with the tune, "He's the Last Word."

Benny also played in the bands of leaders such as Red Nichols (from 1929 to 1931), Isham Jones, and Ted Lewis. During the early 30s Goodman played in bands led by Red Nichols, Ted Lewis, Sam Lanin and others. In 1934, Goodman led a dance band that performed regularly on the national radio show "Let'...

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...ible, but included among others, Lionel Hampton, Harry James, Georgie Auld, Ziggy Ellman, Charlie Christian, Red Norvo, Fletcher Henderson, Gene Krupa, Teddy Wilson, George Wettling, Pee Wee Irwin, Miff Mole, Roy Eldridge, Stan Getz, and Cootie Williams.

"The Benny Goodman Story," a film made in 1955, depicted Benny Goodman's life, and Benny recorded the sound track for it. In the 1950s to the 1970s he made several overseas trips and played at selected engagements with a small band. One such trip was to Russia in 1962. In January 1978 he returned to Carnegie Hall to do a Concert. The tickets all sold out the first day. His last studio recordings were made in January 1986.


Collier, J. Benny Goodman and the Swing Era. New York: West Publishing Company, 1989

Connor, R. and Hicks, W. B. G. on the Record: A Bio-Discography of Benny Goodman. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall. 1969

Dance, S. The World of Swing. New York: Oxford University Press, 1979.

Klauber, B. The World of Gene Krupa. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 1991.

Schuller, G. The Swing Era. New York: McGraw Hill, 1989.

Stewart, R. Jazz Masters of the '30s. New York: W.W. Norton, 1972.
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