Posts Tagged ‘Benny Goodman’


Friday, August 10th, 2012

Check out our CD and DVD sections for new additons. On CD are the first recordings by the Goodman Trio and Quartet, and a two-CD set of JATP in Seattle, 1956, featuring the Krupa Quartet and a host of other jazz stars. We’re offering the two CDs for the price of one. On DVD are two, unaired television pilots. One is a fabulous Stan Kenton concert from 1962, the other a Pearl Bailey special featuring Ellington, Basie, Ella, Torme, Kenton, a wild Lionel Hampton segement and much much more. Coming in the near future, in response to request, are more CDs in our download shop, including the ultra-rare “Jazz Rhythms of Gene Krupa.”

Benny Goodman’s 100th: Long Live the King

Monday, June 1st, 2009

On May 30, 2009, Benny Goodman, a.k.a. “The King of Swing,” would have been 100 years old. There were and are several Goodman tributes, including a BBC Radio “Centenary” episode, concerts by Paquito D’Rivera, the Boston Symphony and a Lincoln Center “Jazz for Young People” show entitled “Who is Benny Goodman?”

There are several players and leaders out there who do ensure that the Goodman legacy continues. Ken Peplowski (who will do a Goodman tribute concert at The Rochester Jazz Festival on June 13), Brooks Tegler, and especially Loren Schoenberg — who could and should write the definitive Benny Goodman story—are three who immediately come to mind. And Schoenberg, by the way, paid tribute to BG, and Lester Young, via several, recent WGBO radio programs. While all this is great stuff, it seems to me that there should be more, given the scope of Benny Goodman’s fame and more than substantial contributions. But memories fade as time goes on, so maybe we should be thankful for any tributes at all.

As much a part of the Goodman legend, if there is such a thing, is the not-so-fondly-remembered issue of his personality. Though I don’t like getting involved in the personal lives of any celebrity, the Goodman “personality,” or lack of it, is just so darn amusing and very, very public, that it just cannot be ignored. Especially on BG’s 100th.

One of Goodman’s biographers, perhaps James Lincoln Collier (and whatever happened to him?) once pointed out that, in all probability, not a day goes by without a story being told about the enigmatic behavior of BG. (Buddy Rich stories are another issue.) Gene Lees’ essential “Jazzletter” devoted a bunch of past issues to what went down on the famed tour of Russia in 1962, and Bill Crow’s “Jazz Anecdotes” retold some of the more infamous stories.

The one I particularly like is the one told in the late, Peter Levinson’s great biography of Tommy Dorsey, published in 2005, entitled “Tommy Dorsey: Livin’ in a Great Big Way.”

As the story goes, BG was doing a gig somewhere on November 27, 1956, the day after Dorsey died. One of Goodman’s sidemen told Benny the news about TD’s tragic and unexpected death. “Benny, I hate to tell you this bad news, “ the sideman related, “but Tommy Dorsey just died.” The King’s reply? “Is that so?” he said. You’ve got to love it.

Another frequently-told story through the years that has again been making the rounds of the internet, is pianist/vocalist Dave Frishberg’s hilarious tale of the evening Goodman sat in with Gene Krupa’s Quartet at The Metropole Cafe’ in New York city. Track that one down. It’s a riot.

I haven’t related my personal Benny Goodman story in years. In line with the 100th birthday business, this seems like an appropriate time to retell it.

In the mid-1980s, I had the bright idea of writing a biography of Gene Krupa, which later became “World of Gene Krupa: That Legendary Drummin’ Man,” published in 1990 and still in print via Pathfinder Publishing of California. For an unpublished author writing about someone relatively forgotten back then, the project was an uphill battle from the start. Still, I forged ahead, and though a good deal of the book was a compilation of edited, previously published materials, I obviously had to get some first-person interviews to give the project some credibility. When I started, I had no publisher and not much of anything else, other than my credentials as a drummer and newspaper editor, but players like Teddy Wilson, Eddie Wasserman, Carmen Leggio, John Bunch, Charlie Ventura, and later, Mel Torme’ (who wrote a wonderful introduction to the book, where he revealed that Gene was, in fact, Goodman’s absolute, favorite drummer of all time) were just marvelous to me.

But it was always in the back of my mind that any book about Krupa just had to have an interview with one, Benjamin David Goodman.

My plan was this: Find the New York phone number and ask BG’s’ long-time secretary, who I believe was still Muriel Zuckerman, if there was a chance at setting up a future phone interview. Goodman’s office number was listed, and having heard all the stories about this strange guy through the years, and the fact that he remained one of my musical idols, I really had to get some serious courage going before I dialed the phone.

Zuckerman answered the telephone, and I did not misrepresent my credentials or the project’s status. “I’m writing a book about Gene Krupa,” I told her, “and I was just wondering…next to setting up an interview with God, how difficult would it be to set a time to do a five-minute phone interview with Mr. Goodman?”

Always the merry prankster, I thought injecting a bit of humor into the proceedings might help pave the way.

“You’d have a better chance with God,” Zuckerman replied, and then asked if she could put me on hold for a moment.

Several moments later, someone picked up a telephone extension and said, “Hello?”

The voice was instantly recognizable. It was “Him.” I was not prepared for this at all.

“Mr. Goodman, I’m writing a book about one of your friends and colleagues, Gene Krupa, and I was wondering if I could set up a time to talk to you over phone about him for a few minutes,” I related.

“Well…what kind of questions do you want to ask?” was BG’s reply.

Man, was I on the spot, as I had absolutely nothing prepared, but I thought I came up with something reasonably intelligent.

“I’ve always wanted to know something, Mr. Goodman,” I answered while stalling for time. “You played with Gene at the very beginning of his career, and you played with him at the very end. Maybe you could explain the difference in how he accompanied you through the years.”

I thought that was a great question, and I still do. I’ll remember Goodman’s comments until the day I die.

“He played pretty much the same,” he explained. “He was rather consistent. As you know, he started with me and then formed his own band, which was rather successful. When did you say he died?”

“He died in 1973,” I told him.

“How old was he when he died,” asked BG.

“He was 64 years old, Mr. Goodman.”

“My, that was rather young, wasn’t it? Goodbye.”


That’s my Benny Goodman story and it was printed, verbatim, in my Krupa book. Several Goodman fans were not happy about it.

When players like Teddy Wilson gave a sensitive and intelligent analysis about how Krupa functioned—and evolved—as an accompanist and a soloist through the years, Benjamin David Goodman could only relate that Krupa’s playing “was pretty much the same” over a 40-plus year span.

But as one wag –who heard all the stories and more through the years—once put it: “Yeah, but he sure could play that clarinet.”

Happy 100th and long live The King.

New On DVD:

Wednesday, April 22nd, 2009

In response to dozens of request about Goodman and Krupa stuff on YouTube, we have gone to untold time and expense to figure out a way to get this stuff on DVD.  Here it is:  “” includes the newsreel footage from JATP/Helsinki/1953, “Avalon” and “I Got Rhythm” with the Goodman Trio from the Peggy Lee tv special of the late 1950s, a couple of bonus tracks from the other “Swing Into Spring” tv special with Benny and Red Norvo in a small group, and the original theatrical trailer to “The Benny Goodman Story.”  They said this couldn’t be done.  But we did. benny-tube-dot-com


Monday, January 19th, 2009

In 1939, bandleader and clarinetist Artie Shaw was at the absolute height of his fame, rivaling Benny Goodman for the “King of Swing” title. Shaw, in fact, was billed as the “King of the Clarinet,” and sparked decades of arguments as to who was the better player. So famous was Shaw that he was pegged to co-star in this 1939 opus, coincidently the same year Gene Krupa made his film debut as a leader. This is a pristine print of this real rarity, which stars Lana Turner, Lee Bowman, Richard Carlson and the great Shaw band, featuring a certain world’s greatest drummer.” The plot? A movie star/dancer gets pregnant just before she’s supposed to star in a new film, and the film studio institutes a nationwide collegiate search for someone to replace her. No matter. Shaw is fabulous, as is the band, and though he’s no Sir Larry, he’s not bad.dancing-co-ed is Proud to Announce Three New Discoveries on CD

Monday, June 23rd, 2008

Final Goodman Quartet Reunions
This unbelievable CD combines a previous release–The Benny Goodman Quartet at Saratoga on August 18, 1973–with an unbelievable new discovery: Almost 20 minutes of another Goodman Quartet reunion concert, in much better fidelity, that took place on July 15, 1973. Here are Gene, Benny, Hamp, Teddy and Slam in all their swinging glory playing “Avalon,” “Moonglow,” “Ding Dong Daddy” and more. Any performances from this group in the 1970s are scarce and invaluable. Price: $20

London House Rarities Volume One: 1958/1959
We knew these were floating around somewhere and we have finally found them. Here’s the great Krupa Quartet with Gene, Eddie Wasserman, Ronnie Ball and Jimmy Gannon in two, never-before-heard sessions from Chicago’s London House. Dates are December 15 and December 25, 1958 and January 1, 1959. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from the Jazz Quartet with more than an hours’ worth of rare, Krupa gems. Price: $20

London House Rarities Volume Two: 1953, 1956, 1958, 1959
More scarce Jazz Quartet performances from Chicago’s London House. Included are more sessions from December 15, 1958 and January 1, 1959, plus additional performances from December 18, 1958. As a bonus, there’s a “Dark Eyes” and “Flyin’ Home” from 1956 (!). The remainder of this essential collection is comprised of an already-available JazzLegends release, the famed Krupa Trio Bandbox sessions of January, 1953, out on our title “The Last and Greatest Live Recordings of the Original Gene Krupa Jazz Trio.” Price: $20