Benny Goodman – “King of Swing”

The “King of Swing”, Benny Goodman

The bandleader who bought the Henderson arrangements was a young 25 year old Jewish clarinet player by the name of Benny Goodman. Goodman, who had been playing professionally since age 14, first heard authentic jazz in Chicago; he shifted from being a classical clarinet player to playing jazz, at first on the sax and then back to the clarinet, his main instrument.

Before forming his own band, young Goodman had played with Paul Whiteman’s band and, at age 21, in the orchestra pit for Gershwin’s Broadway musicals, Girl Crazy and Strike up the Band.

In 1934 Goodman formed a 12 piece band and recorded several songs for Columbia Records. By November, they were ready to audition to be the featured band on an NBC national radio program called Let’s Dance which was to be broadcast into homes across America. Since the program’s budget allowed for the purchase of band arrangements, Goodman purchased several charts from Henderson and then hired him to be the band’s arranger.

Goodman’s place in jazz history is not due to his ability to compose, but rather, due to the interracial nature of his bands, the high degree of performance standards he set, and the extent of the national exposure his presence on radio gave to jazz.

In the 1930s, the idea of an interracial band was revolutionary. Bands were made up of either exclusively black or white members, but never both. Benny Goodman was the first major bandleader to hire the best musicians, regardless of skin color. From the ’30s to the ’70s, Goodman hired many African-American musicians as both sidemen and featured soloists: Teddy Wilson (piano), Lionel Hampton (vibraphone), Charlie Christian (guitar), and Fletcher Henderson (arranger).

Benny Goodman and his Band, movie “Stage Door Canteen” 1943

As a band leader, Goodman was a strict disciplinarian, demanding precise intonation, carefully matched vibratos, and a controlled balance between instruments. His brand of swing was both detailed and energetic.

Let’s Dance was only the first of several national radio broadcasts that Goodman’s band hosted. From 1936 to 1939 they were featured regularly on several CBS broadcasts and gained major national exposure. Due to his national popularity and the pioneering jazz radio broadcasts, Goodman has been given the mantle of “King of Swing.”

Following Goodman, many white and black bandleaders achieved star status. Glen Miller, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Cab Calloway, Duke Ellington and Count Basie all benefited from the doors opened by Benny Goodman.

With the growth of the popularity of jazz in the late ’30s came a wave of musicians – black, white, male and female – all wanting to play in dance bands. The size and the number of big bands grew as the level of musicianship was significantly increased. Written arrangements, which required that musicians be able to read complex charts, gave opportunities for composers to experiment with new sounds and ideas.

When Benny Goodman and His Band performed “Sing, Sing, Sing” at the Carnegie Hall Concert of swing music in 1938, it signified the mainstreaming of a form of jazz called “Big Band” or “Swing”. With this concert – and perhaps this song – jazz became “respectable.”

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Study Units

An Overview

Ch. 1: Understanding Pitch

Ch. 2: Understanding Musical Pulse

Ch. 3: Understanding Volume

Ch. 4: Understanding Tone

Ch. 5: Understanding Melody

Ch. 6: Understanding Harmony

Ch. 7: Understanding Rhythm

Ch. 8: Understanding Bass

Ch. 9: Understanding Countermelody

Ch. 10: Understanding Structure

Ch. 11: Understanding Instrumentation

Ch. 12: Understanding Tempo

An Overview

Ch. 1: 19th Century: Pre-Foster

Ch. 2: Folk Music by the People

Ch. 3: Popular Music in its Infancy

Ch. 4: Stephen Foster – “Father of American Popular Music”

Ch. 5: The Importance of Stephen Foster

Ch. 6: Scott Joplin – “King of Ragtime”

Ch. 7: The Player Piano – Automated Music

Ch. 8: John Philip Sousa – “The March King”

Ch. 9: John Philip Sousa – Recording Artist and Activist

An Overview

Ch. 1: John Lomax – Recording American Roots Music

Ch. 2: Woody Guthrie – “Father of Modern American Folk Music”

Ch. 3: Leadbelly & Pete Seeger: End of the First Wave

Ch. 4: The Kingston Trio – Beginning of the Second Wave

Ch. 5: Joan Baez – “First Lady of Folk Music”

Ch. 6: Peter, Paul & Mary – Balancing the Message

Ch. 7: Robert Zimmerman – The Beginning of an American Icon

Ch. 8: Dylan in New York City

Ch. 9: Dylan after Newport

Ch. 10: The Importance of Dylan

Ch. 11: Folk Music in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: The Roots of Country

Ch. 2: Bristol Beginnings

Ch. 3: The Grand Ole Opry

Ch. 4: Cowboys and the Movies

Ch. 5: Western Swing

Ch. 6: Bluegrass: Hillbilly on Caffeine

Ch. 7: Honky-tonk: Merging Two into One

Ch. 8: The Nashville Sound: Country-Pop

Ch. 9: Rockabilly – Country meets R&B

Ch. 10: Country Feminists Find Their Voice

Ch. 11: The Bakersfield Sound

Ch. 12: Austin “Outlaw” Country

Ch. 13: Neo-Traditionalists at the end of the 20th Century

Ch. 14: Mainstreaming Country in the ‘90s

Ch. 15: Redesigning Country in the 21st Century

An Overview

Ch. 1: What is Jazz?

Ch. 2: Before It Was Jazz

Ch. 3: Jazz is Born!

Ch. 4: Early Jazz Musicians

Ch. 5: Louis Armstrong

Ch. 6: Chicago and Harlem – Hub of 1920s Jazz

Ch. 7: Big Band – Jazz Swing!

Ch. 8: Big Band Musicians and Singers

Ch. 9: Jump Blues and Bop

Ch. 10: Cool Jazz

Ch. 11: Hard Bop

Ch. 12: Free Jazz – Breaking the Rules

Ch. 13: Fusion – The Jazz-Rock-Funk Experience

Ch. 14: Third Stream and World Jazz

Ch. 15: New Age & Smooth Jazz

Ch. 16: Summary – Jazz Lives!

An Overview

Ch. 1: Blues – The Granddaddy of American Popular Music

Ch. 2: Where Did the Blues Come From?

Ch. 3: What Are the Blues?

Ch. 4: How to Build the Blues

Ch. 5: Classic Blues – The Early Years

Ch. 6: Delta Blues – Authentic Beginnings

Ch. 7: Blues in the City – Migration and Power

Ch. 8: Blues in Britain – Redefining the Masters

Ch. 9: Contemporary Blues – Maturity and Respect

Ch. 10: The Relevancy of the Blues Today

Ch. 1: Timelines, Cultures & Technology

Ch. 2: Pre-Rock Influences

Ch. 3: Rock is Born!

Ch. 4: Rock is Named

Ch. 5: Doo-Wop

Ch. 6: Independent Record Labels

Ch. 7: Technology Shapes Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 8: The Plan to Mainstream Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Payola – Rock ‘n’ Roll’s First Scandal

Ch. 1: Crafting Sound in the Studio/Producers and Hit Songs

Ch. 2: West Coast Sound: Beach, Surf, and Teens

Ch. 3: The British Invasion: Two Prongs – Pop & Blues

Ch. 4: Motown and the Development of a Black Pop-Rock Sound

Ch. 5: Soul Music: Gospel and R&B in the Deep South

Ch. 6: The Sounds of Bubble Gum Pop-Rock

Ch. 7: The Arrival of Folk-Rock

Ch. 8: Psychedelic Rock ‘n’ Roll

Ch. 9: Early Guitar Gods of Rock

Ch. 10: Rock Festivals: The Rise and Fall of Music, Peace, and Love

Ch. 11: Anti-Woodstock and Shock Rock Movements

Ch. 1: Technological Breakthroughs

Ch. 2: Electronic Dance Music

Ch. 3: Hip-Hop & Rap – An Introduction

Ch. 4: The Beginnings of Rap

Ch. 5: Old School Rap – Up From the Streets

Ch. 6: Rap’s Golden Age

Ch. 7: East Coast – Political Rap

Ch. 8: West Coast – Gangsta Rap

Ch. 9: The Fragmentation of Rap – Pop, Party & More

Ch. 10: Further Fragmentation – Different Directions

Ch. 11: The Importance of Rap

Ch. 1: Musical Stage Productions in America before the 1800s

Ch. 2: Minstrel Shows and Melodramas

Ch. 3: Stage Presentations in the Late 19th Century

Ch. 4: Early 20th Century: Revues and Operettas

Ch. 5: The Arrival of the Modern American Musical

Ch. 6: Great Partnerships in Book-Musicals

Ch. 7: Musical Theatre Composers in the mid-Century

Ch. 8: Fresh Voices on the Stage in the 1960s

Ch. 9: Two Dominant Forces at the End of the Century

Ch. 10: New Voices at the End of the Century

Ch. 11: New Voices, New Sounds in the New Century

Ch. 12: Musical Theatre Glossary

Ch. 13: Is it “Theatre” or “Theater”?

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