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Benny Goodman, "The King of Swing", was the clarinetist composer responsible for multiple hit singles as a band leader before World War II.
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Benny Goodman, "The King of Swing", was the clarinetist composer responsible for multiple hit singles as a band leader before World War II. Goodman left school at 14 to join the American Federation of Musicians. He reached the height of his popularity in the 1930's, when swing was most popular, creating many hits and being the first jazz band to play Carnegie Hall.
"After you've done all the work and prepared as much as you can, what the hell, you might as well go out and have a good time."
Clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman was born Benjamin David Goodman on May 30, 1909, in Chicago, Illinois. As an extraordinary clarinetist and bandleader, Goodman helped usher in the swing era in the 1930s—earning him the nickname "the King of Swing." The son of Russian immigrants, he was the ninth child born into the family and eventually he would have a total of 11 siblings. His father worked as a tailor to try to provide for the large family, but money was always tight for the Goodmans.
At the age of 10, Goodman went to study music at Kehelah Jacob Synagogue. He studied the clarinet with Franz Schoepp who was a member of the Chicago Symphony. At Hull-House, a settlement house that provided social services to the community, Goodman joined the band there. He quickly excelled at his instrument and made his professional debut in 1921. Playing with local bands, Goodman became a member of the American Federation of Musicians at the age of 14. He then abandoned his education to pursue his musical ambitions.
Two years later, Goodman moved to Los Angeles to join Ben Pollack's band. He stayed with the band for several years, eventually becoming one of its leading soloists. In 1928, Goodman released his first album, A Jazz Holiday. He then left the band and moved to New York City the following year.
Goodman found work playing on the radio, in recording sessions, and in the orchestras of Broadway shows. During his time there, he worked with such jazz legends as Fats Waller, Ted Lewis, and Bessie Smith. In 1931, Goodman had his first taste of chart success on his own with the song "He's Not Worth Your Tears" with Scrappy Lambert on vocals.
Goodman teamed up with jazz promoter John Hammond in 1933 to make some recordings, including a few tracks with an up-and-coming jazz singer named Billie Holiday. Their work together resulted in the 1934 top 10 hit "Riffin' the Scotch." Other Goodman hits from this time included "Ain't Cha Glad?" and "I Ain't Lazy, I'm Just Dreamin'" with vocals by Jack Teagarden.
Starting his career as a bandleader in 1934, Goodman and his group landed a gig at Billy Rose's Music Hall. The Benny Goodman Orchestra then became a regular act on the NBC radio show, Let's Dance, that same year. Clearly a musician and bandleader on the rise, Goodman had his first number one hit with the instrumental piece "Moonglow."
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