Benjamin David Goodman was born in Chicago, Illinois, on May 30, 1909, into a large, poor Jewish family. His parents, who had moved to the United States from Eastern Europe, were Dora and David Goodman.
He first started playing clarinet at a local Chicago synagogue when he was about ten. He learnt the clarinet with the help of a former musician of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. A year later he was playing in the pit band of a local theatre. He also played at school dances and other local events. He dropped out of school at age of 14 to become a professional musician.
He made his first recordings in 1926, and made his first recordings under his own name in 1928. In 1934 he led his first band on a radio series called "Let's Dance" (which became the title of Goodman's theme song). The band also played at dance halls and made a handful of records.
Early in his career he played jazz in dance bands. At 16 he joined Ben Pollack's orchestra, he played with them for 4 years. Then he went on to perform with different bands on other venues such as radio shows and recording studios. In the 1920's a type of music called "swing" was borne from the big band style. As Benny's name became known he formed his own swing band and by 1935 their performances at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles attracted hordes of fans, thus earning him the title "King of Swing".
Two of the finest musicians ever to work with Goodman were pianist Teddy Wilson and vibraphonist-drummer Lionel Hampton . However, they played only in small-group arrangements because of the unwritten rule that did not allow white musicians and African American musicians to play together. Goodman was the first white bandleader to challenge segregation (keeping people of different races separate) in the music business, and as...