Welcome to this week’s music Column and William Price King will be sharing the life and music of the renowned King of Swing, Benny Goodman.
Benny Goodman was born in May 1909 in Chicago, the ninth child of Russian immigrants David and Dora Goodman. There were 12 children eventually and David worked for a tailor to support them. Although it was tough to make ends meet, his father sent Benny to study music at the Kehelah Jacob Synagogue, where he learned the clarinet whilst his two brothers learned tuba and trumpet. Despite his youth, Benny’s talent was obvious and he became a professional musician playing for several bands in the city from the age of 11. At 14, and already a member of the American Federation of Musicians he left school and used the money he earned to support his family.
Highlights from Benny Goodman’s long career with thanks to Benny Goodman Website
- At age 16 Benny joined the Ben Pollack Band and moved to Los Angeles and stayed with them for four years, becoming a featured soloist.
- In 1929, Benny left the band to pursue a career in New York in recording sessions and radio shows.
- In 1933, Benny began working with John Hammond the Jazz promoter who introduced him to drummer Gene Krupa and trombonist Jack Teagarden with their recordings launching Benny to a wider audience.
- In 1934 Benny fronted his first band with a month long gig at Billy Rose’s Music Hall with band members Bunny Berigan, Gene Krupa and Jess Stacy. Their music had its roots in the southern jazz foms of ragtime and Dixieland. Benny reached a wider audience when his band was engaged to play on the weekly NBC radio show Let’s Dance which was taped live with a studio audience.
- The new swing music quickly caught on and in August 1935 the band played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles and were an instant hit. New dance steps were being invented by the young audience and along with other swing bands, Benny became very successful on radio across the country.
- Benny’s success as an icon of the Swing Era prompted Time magazine in 1937 to call him the “King of Swing.” The next year, at the pinnacle of the Swing Era, the Benny Goodman band, along with musicians from the Count Basie and Duke Ellington bands, made history as the first jazz band ever to play in New York’s prestigious Carnegie Hall.
- The Swing Era came to an end as the USA became more involved in World War II, with many musicians drafted into the services and gas rationing impacting touring. However, Benny Goodman continued to play swing as well as classical music performing solos with major orchestras and studying with acclaimed classical clarinetist Reginald Kell.
- From 1953 Benny embarked on a tour of the world including Asia and Europe to introduce his music to new and younger audiences
- In 1955 The Benny Goodman Story about his life was released.
- During the late 1960s and 1970s, Benny appeared in reunions with the other members of his quartet: Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa, and Lionel Hampton. In 1978, the Benny Goodman band also appeared at Carnegie Hall again to mark the 30th Anniversary of when they appeared in the venue’s first jazz concert.
- In 1982, Benny was honored by the Kennedy Center for his lifetime achievements in swing music. In 1986, he received both an honorary doctorate degree in music from Columbia University and the Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. He continued to play the music that defined his lifetime in occasional concert dates until his death in June 1986 of cardiac arrest.
Let’s listen to just a small selection of Benny Goodman’s music.
“Room 1411”, Glenn Miller’s first known composition, was written in collaboration with Benny Goodman in 1928 when Miller was part of the group the ‘Benny Goodman’s Boys’ (comprised of an all-star ensemble featuring Miller on trombone, Ray Bauduc on drums, Dick “Icky” Morgan on guitar, Fud Livingston on tenor saxophone, Jimmy McPartland on cornet, Vic Breidis on piano, Harry Goodman on tuba, and Benny Goodman on clarinet and baritone saxophone). The title of the song came about as a note of gratitude referring to the room number of the hotel where lyricist Walter Melrose, who bought the song from Goodman and Miller, stayed while he was sick in New York.
“Sing, Sing, Sing (With A Swing)”, strongly identified with the big band and swing eras, was written by Louis Prima who first recorded it with the ‘New Orleans Gang’ and released by Brunswick Records on the 78 rpm format in 1936. Benny Goodman recorded Jimmy Mundy’s arrangement of the song in Hollywood in 1937. The standard length of a song at that time did not exceed three minutes but Goodman’s version, recorded on side A and B went up to 8 minutes and 43 seconds of the 12-inch 78 rpm. What stands out in this piece, which also makes it more recognizable, is the drum motif (played by Gene Krupa) which opens the piece and is heard throughout the song.
“Rose Room” was written in 1917 by drummer, pianist, and bandleader Art Hickman and composer, lyricist, and publisher Harry Williams. The song was named after the ‘Rose Room of the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco’ (a favourite place for film stars – the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, and Mary Pickford) where Art Hickman was playing at the time. Two years later, Columbia took the band to New York to record “Rose Room”. The recording became a best-seller for the record label and the band the following year. Duke Ellington is credited for reviving the popularity of “Rose Room” with his 1932 recording. When Ellington recorded the tune, it also gained a subtitle “Rose Room – In Sunny Roseland”. In1939, guitarist Charlie Christian came on to the bandstand one night where the Benny Goodman Quartet was playing and jammed “Rose Room” for 45 minutes of solo after solo. Goodman was impressed, Charlie Christian was hired and the song was then recorded by the Benny Goodman Sextet, featuring Charlie Christian on guitar.
“Why Don’t You Do Right”, considered a classic ‘woman’s blues,’ is a minor key twelve-bar blues which was originally recorded as “Weed Smoker’s Dream” composed by Joseph ‘Kansas Joe’ McCoy in 1936. The song was originally about a pot smoker reminiscing about his lost financial opportunities from the perspective of his female partner who chastised her lover for his irresponsible ways. Probably the best known version of this song is that of Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman, recorded in 1942 in New York. This song was featured in the 1943 film, “Stage Door Canteen” and sold over a million copies, reaching #4 on the Billboard charts. Peggy Lee’s alluring tone, her smooth and sultry delivery, and her rich vocal style brought her to nation-wide attention with this, her breakthrough hit.
Additional information: https://www.bennygoodman.com/
Buy the music of Benny Goodman: https://www.amazon.com/Benny-Goodman/e/B000APWEM2
Thanks to William for this fascinating look at the music of Benny Goodman and we would love your feedback.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo with French/Greek guitarist Manolis, and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION – https://williampriceking.tumblr.com
Buy William’s music ITunes https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/william-price-king/id788678484
Connect with William
You can find all of the Music Column series in this directory: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-music-column/
Thank you for dropping in today and I hope you have enjoyed the music…thanks William and Sally.