Benny Goodman Day
May 30, 1909 – June 13, 1986
I Got Rhythm
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Clarinetist and bandleader Benjamin David “Benny” Goodman was born on May 30, 1909, in Chicago, Illinois.
A fast learner, he got his musician’s union card at 13, and at 14, he was playing in a band that featured Bix Beiderbecke.
His success is well known, but not so well known was how long it took for him to find an audience for his “swing” music.
Unbeknownst to him, a late-night slot he had on a live radio program out of New York primed a huge audience for him on the West Coast, which heard him at 9:30 PM.
The band, which was on the brink of breaking up, discovered to its utter surprise that they had a mass of raving fans when they showed up for a gig at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles—and the Swing Era was born.
Following his father’s tragic death in 1926, Benny moved to New York where he found work as a session musician with the orchestra of Ben Pollack and later in the bands of Ben Selvin, Ted Lewis, Isham Jones, and Red Nichols.
Forming a group of his own, he found national success via radio and is credited as being largely responsible for the official start of the swing era, kicked off by his three-week engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles in August 1935.
As a revolutionary bandleader, he introduced new ideas to jazz with his big bands and led the first integrated groups featuring Charlie Christian and Lionel Hampton.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Goodman’s music never went out of style, and he continued to delight audiences until his death in 1986.
This clip of the “Benny Goodman Quartet” performing George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” was captured on December 17, 1959, during a television broadcast and features Benny Goodman (clarinet), Lionel Hampton (vibraphone), Jess Stacy (piano), and Gene Krupa (drums).