Legendary late (1909-86) Chicago-born jazz clarinetist and bandleader. The high school dropout was raised on Maxwell Street, and (though he didn't attend Austin High) was an early member of the Austin High Gang. He played in the Hull-House band, cut his first record in 1926, and went on to become the ambassador of swing. He -- for example his 1938 performance at Carnegie hall, during a time when jazz was still foreign to "concert halls" -- made jazz respectable.
In 1925, he began working as the star of Ben Pollack's band (though Goodman barely hid his disregard -- several times he booked recording dates with Pollack's players, but without Pollack). After resigning in 1929, Goodman worked with Red Nichols, as a studio musician, and then leading his own band at Bill Rose Music Hall (where he had a weekly NBC broadcast).
Over the next five years (during which there were several riots at Goodman performances) in Chicago and New York, Goodman built a team which included trumpeter Harry James, drummer Gene Krupa, and black musicians Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton, and eventually electric guitarist Charlie Christian.
While his later orchestras, which included Cootie Williams, Billy Butterfield, Lou McGarity, Jimmy Maxwell, Charlie Queener, Aaron Sachs, Red Norvo, John Best, Peanuts Hucko, Frank Beach, and singer Peggy Lee, continued to be successful, Goodman drifted toward clarinet playing (in classical music, especially).
Goodman made a 1962 tour of Russia for the US State Department, appeared in two feature films A Song is Born (1947) and The Benny Goodman Story (1955), toured Europe through the '70s, and even returned to Carnegie Hall for a 40-year anniversary of his original performance. He continued to play in small groups until near his death on June 13, 1986.
Among his best recordings are BG and Big Tea in NYC (1929-34; MCA/GRP), The Birth of Swing (1935-6; RCA Bluebird), After You've Gone (1935-7) and Avalon (1937-9) both on RCA Bluebird, Small Combos 1935-41 (Giants of Jazz), The Harry James Years Vol. 1 (1937-8; RCA Bluebird), Benny Goodman On The Air (1937-8; Columbia), Carnegie Hall Concert (1938), Second Carnegie Hall Concert (1939), Benny Goodman: His Orchestra and His Combos 1941-55 (all on Giants of Jazz), Benny Goodman Sextet (1950-2; CBS), and Benny Goodman and Friends (1984; Decca).
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