May 30 marks the 100th birthday of celebrated jazz clarinetist and bandleader Benny Goodman. Across the United States, there will be many tributes to the man known as "The King Of Swing."
Benny Goodman was crowned "The King Of Swing" after leading his 14-piece band through a stunning performance of such classics as "King Porter Stomp" at the Palomar Ballroom in Hollywood, California. With rave reviews of that pivotal 1935 concert in newspapers across the country, the swing era was underway.
Born in Chicago
Twenty-six years earlier, Benny Goodman was born one of 12 children to Russian immigrants in Chicago, Illinois. He began studying clarinet at age 11, and at 14, he quit school to pursue a career in music. His first employer was bandleader Ben Pollack followed by early recording sessions alongside drummer Gene Krupa and trombonist Jack Teagarden. Leading his own groups by the mid-1930s, Benny earned national recognition with appearances on the coast-to-coast radio show "Let's Dance."
At the height of swing in 1938, Benny and his band made history as the first jazz group ever to play at New York's famed Carnegie Hall. The concert's overwhelming success meant that jazz had finally been accepted by mainstream audiences.
Breaking color barrier
Benny Goodman was instrumental in breaking the color barrier in jazz. He hired African-American pianist Teddy Wilson to play in his trio, and later enlisted vibraphonist Lionel Hampton for his quartet.
The demise of the big band era had no effect on Benny's output. He continued to record and tour in the years leading up to his death at age 77 on June 13, 1986. That same year, he was honored with a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Tributes include jazz greats
Tributes to Benny Goodman on the anniversary of his 100th birthday began last December with a concert by Paquito D'Rivera and the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, "Commemorating Goodman, Celebrating Swing." Centennial celebrations continue in June with a birthday salute by the Boston Symphony Orchestra; at the Rochester International Jazz Festival in Rochester, New York; and a Jazz for Young People Concert titled "Who Is Benny Goodman" by the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra in New York City.
Other tributes include a three-day anniversary celebration by the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in Elgin, Illinois; a Centennial Tribute Show on the Jazz Fest at Sea cruise; and the recent reissue of Benny Goodman's recording, "Live At Carnegie Hall - The 40th Anniversary Concert."