In Chicago, Illinois. He was the ninth of twelve children born from the poor Jewish couple David Goodman and Dora Grissini’s. Benny formally studied music at the famed Hull House, and by the age of 10 was a skilled clarinetist. At the age of 13, Penny’s father enrolled him and two of his older brothers in music lessons at the Keelhaul Jacob Synagogue. His early influences were New Orleans Jazz clarinetists working in Chicago, notably Johnny Odds, Leon Rapport, and Jimmy None. Benny learned quickly and became a strong player at an early age.
He was soon playing professionally while still ‘In short pants’, playing clarinet in various bands and participating in jam sessions with musicians of the Chicago scene, including Bud Freeman and Red Nichols. When Benny hit 16 he was recognized as a “comer” as far away as the west coast and was asked to Join a California-based band led by another Chicago boy, Ben Pollack. Benny played with Pollack’s band for the next four years. HIS earliest recording was made with Pollack. But he was also recording under his own name in Chicago and New York, where the band had migrated from the west coast.
In 1929, when he was 20, Benny struck out on his own to become a typical New York freelance musician, playing studio dates, leading a pit orchestra, making himself a seasoned professional. Penny’s father, David, was a working-class Immigrant about whom Benny said ” .. Pop worked in the stockyard, swiveling lard in its unrefined state. He had those boots, and he’d come home at the end of the day exhausted, stinking to high heaven, and when he walked in it made me sick. I couldn’t stand it. I couldn’t stand the idea of Pop every day standing in that stuff, swiveling it around”.
On December 9th, 1926, Penny’s father David was killed In a car crash. The death was a bitter blow to the family and It haunted Benny that his father had not lived to see all his success. Benny left for New York City and became a successful session musician during the late sass and early sass. March 21, 1928 Victor session found Benny alongside Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorset, and Joe Venues In the All-Star Orchestra, directed by Nat Chiseler. He played with the nationally known bands of Ben Kelvin, Red Nickels, Sham Jones, and Ted Lewis.
He recorded sides for Brunswick under the name Bennie Goodman Boys, a band that featured Glenn Miller. In 1928, Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller wrote the instrumental “Room 1411”, which was released as a Brunswick 78. He also recorded musical soundtracks for movie shorts; fans believe that Benny Goodman clarinet can be heard on the soundtrack of One A. M. , a Charlie Chaplin Dance, a well-regarded three-hour weekly radio program that featured various styles of dance music. His familiar theme song by that title was based on Invitation to the Dance by Carl Maria von Weber.
Since he needed new arrangements every week for he show, his agent, John Hammond, suggested that he purchase “hot” (swing) arrangements from Fletcher Henderson, an African-American musician from Atlanta. Benny continued his meteoric rise throughout the late sass with his big band, his trio and quartet, and a sextet. By the mid-sass, however, big bands lost a lot of their popularity. In 1941, ASAP had a licensing war with music publishers. In 1942 to 1944 and 1948, the musician’s union went on strike against the major record labels in the United States, and singers took the spot in popularity that the big bands once enjoyed.
During this strike, the United States War Department approached the union and requested the production of the V-Disc, a set of records containing new and fresh music for soldiers to listen to. Also, by the late sass, swing was no longer the dominant mode of Jazz musicians. In 1953 Benny re-formed his classic band for an expensive tour with Louis Armstrong All Stars that turned into a famous disaster. He managed to insult Armstrong at the beginning; then he was appalled at the mock aspects of Louis’ act a contradiction of everything Benny stood for.
After winning numerous polls over the years as best Jazz clarinetist, Benny was inducted into the Down Beat Jazz Hall of Fame in 1957. Despite increasing health problems, he continued to play until his death from a heart attack in New York City in 1986 at the age of 77, in his home at Manhattan House, 200 East 66th Street. A longtime resident of Pound Ridge, New York, Benny Goodman is interred in the Long Ridge Cemetery, Stamford, Connecticut. The same year, Goodman was honored with the Grammar Lifetime Achievement Award. Benny Goodman musical papers were donated to Yale University after his death.