Benny Goodman (1909–1986)


30th May 1909 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.

Benny Goodman’s grave in Stamford


13th June 1986 in New York, New York, USA.


Long Ridge Cemetery, Stamford, Fairfield County, Connecticut, USA.

Some famous singles:
  • Stompin’ at the Savoy (this is one of the few songs that he actually had some part in writing). (See below for a video.)
  • Avalon.
  • Blue Skies.
  • King Porter Stomp (written by Jelly Roll Morton).
  • Plus many more!
Some great albums:
  • The Birth of Swing (1935–1936).
  • Afer You’ve Gone (1935–1937).
  • Benny Goodman on Air (1937–1938).
  • Avalon (1937–1939).
  • Carnegie Hall Concert (1938).
  • Goodman—The Different Version Vols 1–5 (1939–1947).
  • Benny Goodman: His Orchestra and his Combos 1941–55.
  • Benny Goodman and Friends (1984).
  • Plus many more!
Some interesting facts:
  • He played the clarinet. In fact he was probably the best jazz clarinettist who has ever lived!
  • He was one of the greatest jazz artists of the swing era (1930s–early 1940s)! [Swing jazz uses big bands and has a strong beat. It is often very fast as well.]
  • In fact he was often called the “King of Swing”.
  • He was the person who made swing popular. This happened almost overnight at a performance in Los Angeles on the 21st August 1935.
  • In fact you could also say that he was the person who made jazz, as a whole, popular and respectable. This, again, happened overnight at a concert in Carnegie Hall on the 16th January 1938. Carnegie Hall was (and still is) one of the most famous concert halls in USA. Before Benny Goodman’s concert, Carnegie Hall was really only a concert hall for classical music. The audience at Benny Goodman’s concert was not used to hearing jazz, but they liked it!
  • Much of the success of Benny Goodman was due to the fact he was white. Before Benny Goodman, most jazz musicians were Black. Unfortunately this meant that many white audiences wouldn’t listen to their music. It took the white jazz musician Benny Goodman to change their minds!
  • Benny Goodman included Black musicians in his bands. These Black musicians were some of the first Black people to play at many places (including the Carnegie Hall).
  • Benny Goodman played jazz and recorded for almost 60 years!
  • He earned money playing jazz when he was only 13!
  • He was very strict with the musicians in his own bands.
  • He went on a tour with Louis Armstrong in 1953. However, this was a disaster because the two men didn’t get on.
  • He also played classical music as well as jazz. In fact, several classical composers of the last century wrote clarinet pieces specially for him.
Official Website

Here is a video of Benny Goodman and his band playing Stompin’ at the Savoy.

Beeny Goodman playing ‘Stompin’ at the Savoy’

And here is a video of Benny Goodman in 1985, one year before he died. The second piece he plays is Don’t Be That Way.

Benny Goodman playing ‘Don’t Be That Way’ (and another piece)

Picture credits:
  1. Benny Goodman. This is a cropped screenshot of Benny Goodman from the film ‘Stage Door Canteen’ from 1943. The image is in the public domain. Click here for the source of this image, along with the relevant copyright information.
  2. Benny Goodman’s grave in Stamford. This photograph was taken by Virginia Michaels. I have obtained permission from her to use the image here. Click here for the source of this image.
Video credits:
  1. Stompin’ At The Savoy (Benny Goodman Montage). A group of pics of Goodman and his Big Band.
  2. Don’t Be That Way – Benny Goodman 1985. Let’s Dance – Don’t Be That Way

    October 7, 1985 @The New York Marriott Marquis

    Clarinet: Benny Goodman
    Piano: Dick Hyman
    Drums: Louis Bellson
    Bass: Bob Haggart
    Guitar: James Chirillo
    Tenor Sax: Ken Peplowski, Loren Schoenberg
    Alto Sax: Chuck Wilson, Jack Stuckey
    Baritone Sax: Danny Bank
    Trombone: Bobby Pring, Eddie Bert, Matt Finders
    Trumpet: Laurie Frink, Randy Sandke, John Eckert, Paul Cohen.