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Benny Goodman was one of the most successful bandleaders during the golden era of big band music in the thirties and forties.  Famed for his brilliant arrangement ability, taking some of the greatest songs of the times and adding to them a style of his own.

Goodman was also one of the more forward thinking bandleaders of his times, as well among the first to successfully  integrate colored musicians into his band.



Benny was the ninth of twelve children growing up  in the poverty stricken neighborhood of Near West Side of Chicago. Despite their extremely frugal lifestyle, Goodman’s father was determined that his children would have an education, as well as some kind of background in music.

Despite their frugal lifestyle,  Goodman was sent off  to study music after school, and showed a natural talent for the  clarinet, enough to convince the family to pay for classical training while still in his early teens.

With money tighter than ever for the family, during  the “Roaring Twenties” at their peak, Benny Goodman set off to supplement the family income by playing clarinet in local bands,  as well as putting  some money aside for his college education.

So successful was he, that the jobs and the money were flowing in, and Benny was able to make a considerable contribution towards his family’s financial well being. Tragically his plans to study to become an engineer had to be put on hold,  when his father David was killed in an accident in 1926, leaving Benny as the family’s  principal breadwinner.


Although Benny was becoming very well known and popular around Chicago, playing and recording with the Ben Pollack Orchestra even appearing in a number of recordings, he knew that the road to success could only lead to one place, and that was New York.


Goodman’s arriving in  New York City  in 1929, just as the Stock Market collapsed,  signaling the start of the Great Depression that was to continue through most of the thirties.



Fortunately to get them through these troubled times, the people still needed to hear good music to help their mood, and Benny Goodman’s special talents reamined in high demand.  Initially  Benny was content to find work as a session musician, working sometimes alongside such burgeoning greats as Glenn Miller, and Tommy Dorsey.


During his time as a session musician and occasional band member that Goodman began to  pick up  regular work on the live radio shows that were especially popular at that time, Soon Benny’s polished performances were recognized and  millions of Americans began  tuning in to hear him play. Soon  Benny’s sessions began to capture the attention of the record companies, with first Columbia and later Victor releasing his sessions on vinyl. Such was his success, that Goodman, decided that the time was right to  form his own orchestra.


Goodman was not only an excellent musician, but also a pretty shrewd individual who recognized the potential of radio before many and used it to the maximum. By doing so, he greatly reduced for himself and his fast growing orchestra the need for the energy sapping road tours that a number of the big bands were committed to during these times.


 For many the highlight of Goodman's  career was the performance that his  orchestra gave at the Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1938, the first that any form of popular music playing band would ever make.


Goodman, famous for his perfectionism, drove the Carnegie Hall management to distraction with the  amount of time he took to  rehearse his performance. Ultimately Benny’s pedanticness paid off, with the  concert still  been regarded  to this day as one of the most important  and well produced  in jazz history.

The Carnegie Hall concert to many  marked the peak of  Goodman’s career. With war clouds drawing closer, the Benny Goodman Orchestra began to go their separate ways.


After the war, Goodman continued to play his clarinet as his band gradually shrunk in size, eventually becoming more or a solo artist than anything else. Benny, a happy family man, enjoyed his time at home, as well as reviving his interest in classical music that he was forced to abandon during his teens.


Please take a moment to click through the links below and pick out a particular Bennie Goodman song that you may never have heard before and relive the magical sounds of the big band era.




  A String of Pearls Listen to this song on You Tube  
  After You've Gone Listen to this song on You Tube  
  And the Angels Sing Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Honeysuckle Rose Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I ain't got Nobody Listen to this song on You Tube  
  If I had you Listen to this song on You Tube  
  I've found a New Baby Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Jersey Bounce Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Lady Be Good Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Liza Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Memories of You Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Please be Kind Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Poor Butterfly Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Somebody Loves Me Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Star Dust Listen to this song on You Tube  
  Sweet Georgia Brown Listen to this song on You Tube  
  S'Wonderful Listen to this song on You Tube  
  That's a Plenty Listen to this song on You Tube