Benny Goodman

Active - 1936 - 1999  |   Born - May 30, 1909   |   Died - Jun 13, 1986   |   Genres - Music

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Biography by Sandra Brennan

In his heyday, jazz clarinet player and bandleader Benny Goodman was the undisputed "King of Swing." He was born the eighth son to an immigrant family of 12 on the west side of Chicago. Learning to play clarinet with an instrument loaned to him from a local synagogue, he started out playing in neighborhood bands. A year after his high school graduation, Goodman moved to California to work in Ben Pollack's band and from there went on to radio work and free-lance recording. In the early 1930s, Goodman founded his own band and began working for Billy Rose and eventually, after replacing Guy Lombardo at the Roosevelt Grill, moved to Hollywood to play his new "swing" music at the Palomar Ballroom. Later, he made major inroads against the racism of the music industry by hiring African American pianist Teddy Wilson, and vibraphone player Lionel Hampton. Others followed. In 1936, Goodman and his band made their screen debut in The Big Broadcast of 1937 and after that performed in several other musicals, including The Gang's All Here (1941). In 1946, Goodman played his clarinet for the animated musical Make Mine Music, and in 1956, Goodman became the subject of the musical biopic The Benny Goodman Story starring Steve Allen.

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