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Jonathan Z. S. Pollack

Born into a poor Russian-Jewish family in Chicago, Benny Goodman studied clarinet at Jane Addams's Hull House. A musical prodigy, he performed professionally at age twelve and in a traveling band at sixteen. As a teenager, Goodman became famous for playing “hot” clarinet solos, improvising like the New Orleans musicians who had invented jazz. Success in studio and radio work led Goodman to form his own touring band in 1935, which received mixed reviews until it played the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles on 21 August 1935. Teenagers who had heard Goodman's broadcasts packed the club, and “swing” music was born. While no one agreed exactly what “swing” was, promoters quickly dubbed Goodman the “King of Swing.” On 16 January 1938 he became the first jazz bandleader to play Carnegie Hall, the country's premier high-culture musical venue.

Goodman was one of the first big name bandleaders ...