BENNY GOODMAN Vol.3
'Bumble Bee Stomp' Original Recordings 1937-1939
It was by a fortuitous quirk of Fate that Benjamin DavidGoodman was born on 30 May 1909 in Chicago, for there, during his formativeyears, he was able to hear at first hand Louis Armstrong, Johnny Dodds andBessie Smith, as well as Leon Roppolo and Frank Teschemacher. After initialmusical training at ten in his local synagogue, at twelve the precocious Bennytook up classical clarinet at Hull House School under John Sylvester and alsostudied privately with Franz Schoepp. At thirteen he was already improvising injazz and at fourteen he was carrying the card of the American Federation ofMusicians and gigging with Bix Beiderbecke on Great Lakes steamboats.
In 1925 Benny signed with Ben Pollack in Chicago and wentwith him to the Venice Ballroom in Los Angeles. He freelanced with Benny Meroffand other bands, but was intermittently a featured soloist with Pollack, inChicago and elsewhere, until 1929. By 1930 one of New York's most sought-aftersession players, he frequently participated on disc in groups fronted by SamLanin, Ted Lewis, Red Nichols, Ben Selvin, Joe Venuti et al and in radiostudios with Andre Kostelanetz, Dave Rubinoff, Don Voorhees, Paul Whiteman andothers. During 1932 he formed, and played in, a backing group for ill-fatedcrooner Russ Columbo and by 1934 found himself ideally placed to assess thelatest trends in dance-music via the short-lived residency of his sixteen-piecebig-band at Billy Rose's Music Hall.
During the summer of 1934 NBC Radio issued a questionnaireto analyse listeners' tastes and when 18,000 replies overwhelmingly favoureddance music a new programme was devised, entitled Let's Dance. Organised bypianist-conductor Josef Bonime, the show was sponsored by Nabisco (the NationalBiscuit Company). Three distinct categories were to be featured on theprogramme: a commercial 'sweet' band, a Latin-American combo and an up-tempooutfit which it was hoped would 'swing just a little bit more'. This last gave Goodman his coast-to-coastentree and from December 1934 to May 1935 his band were tuned into by each weekby vast audiences of Swing fans.
In July 1935 the Goodman band began its first national tourand on 21 August took up residency at the Los Angeles Palomar, from whichvantage it quickly acquired first national, then international renown. The band's next port of residence wasthe Congress in Chicago (November 1935 to May 1936) and the Swing Era, it hasoften been claimed, was truly launched when the Goodman band was voted NumberOne later that year in a Down Beat magazine readers' poll. 'The King of Swing', however, albeit anoted clarinet ace with considerable experience, was a solid rather than ashowy virtuoso who had won no particular distinction as a composer or arranger.But in the latter instance, his worldwide recognition had made him a magnet forthe best orchestrators, including Jimmy Mundy (1907-1983) and moresignificantly pianist-bandleader Fletcher Henderson (1897-1952).
Henderson's arrangements were to provide the first boost toGoodman's popularity when he was forced through economic necessity to sell themto Goodman; and soon afterwards he endorsed the Goodman brand of Swing morefully by becoming Goodman's full-time staff arranger. Taken under the wing ofmusic-publisher Irving Mills the Goodman outfit, in advance of its first Let'sDance broadcasts, had cut a few Swing titles for Columbia which at first (inthe admissible opinion of Benny's brother-in-law, the Columbia A & R manJohn Hammond) 'did not swing'. ByChristmas 1934, however, the combination of Henderson and the rock-solidrhythmic pulse of Gene Krupa on Saturday night radio had converted the youth ofAmerica to the new phenomenon.
From early 1935, Goodman's band recorded various numberswhich met with instant and unqualified success, including the atmospheric \BlueMoon" with its fine vocal by Helen Ward. The bulk of their material, however,comprised Mills publications for which Goodman received only a flat fee withoutroyalties. Dissatisfied with this arrangement, the ambitious bandleader soonnegotiated a better deal - with RCA Victor, who, by a happy coincidence, ownedthe NBC network that promoted Let's Dance. He also had an ally in RCA chiefexecutive Ted Wallerstein, who succeeded in securing his ongoing royaltypayments.
When, in May 1935, Nabisco declined to renew his Let's Dancecontract, Goodman accepted, through MCA, an engagement at New York's RooseveltGrill. The Grill's clientele, however, accustomed to the sweeter tones of GuyLombardo, rebelled against the 'unnerving' Goodman swing, a reaction whichprompted Goodman in June, 1935 to take his men on an (at first unsuccessful)MCA-sponsored tour which in turn led to the historic first engagement the LosAngeles Palomar - an event which, broadcast to the American nation, marked thesymbolic birthday of the Swing Era.
Following the Down Beat poll, by late 1936 Goodman hadvarious hits to his credit (see Naxos 8.120548, Benny Goodman: SwingFavourites, 1935-1936) a catalogue further extended by "Star Dust" (abest-selling instrumental revival of the 1929 Hoagy Carmichael-Mitchell Parishstandard, this was coupled with Tommy Dorsey's version of the same number) and"Bugle Call Rag" (a new arrangement by Henderson of the 1934 Goodman success). Goodman's 1937 gems of Swing weretopped by "Goodnight, My Love" and "This Year's Kisses", while "Smoke Dreams","Stompin' At The Savoy", "Afraid To Dream", "Peckin", I Want To Be Happy (arevival from the classic 1924 Vincent Youmans show No, No, Nanette) and aClaude Thornhill up-tempoing of the old Scots ballad Loch Lomond (a rarityinsofar as Goodman vocalises, in duet with Martha Tilton) were also theequivalent of 'hits' during the period that preceded the setting-up, in 1940,of the US pop charts. Among 1938 jazz items outstanding are a fine Hendersonarrangement of Earl Hines' "Rosetta", a revival of Jimmy McHugh's "I Can't GiveYou Anything But Love", Count Basie's Jumpin' At The Woodside and the Goodmanradio opening signature-tune Let's Dance.
The band's most commercial bestsellers of 1938 (asinterpreted from record and sheet-music sales) included many numbers of a moreovertly instrumental inspiration, notably "Sing, Sing, Sing", Slim Gaillard'sThe Flat Foot Floogie, Horace Henderson's Big John Special, Fletcher Henderson'sBumble Bee Stomp and Eddie Dunham's Topsy. In 1939 among its top numbers wereWalter Donaldson and Johnny Mercer's Shut-Eye, Herman Ruby's My Honey's Lovin'Arms (Harry James' last 'hit' prior to quitting Goodman) and the commercialRose Of Washington Square (originally a vocal item by James F. Hanleyinterpolated into Ziegfeld's Midnight Frolics of 1919).
Peter Dempsey, 2004