MUSIC CLIP - OSCAR PETERSON, “MOONGLOW”
Welcome to Afterglow, I’m your host, Mark Chilla.
This week, we explore the music of the King Of Swing himself, Mr. Benny Goodman. Goodman’s Orchestra created the definitive sound of the Big Band Era, with a snappy rhythm section, and his distinctive, beautiful clarinet tone. However, the people often overlooked in Goodman’s band were his singers, and that’s what we’ll focus on this hour. Coming up, we’ll hear Goodman’s work with singers like Billie Holiday, Peggy Lee, Mildred Bailey, and Dick Haymes.
It’s Sing, Sing, Sing: Benny Goodman and the Singers, coming up on Afterglow
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH ETHEL ENNIS, “MEDLEY”
The Benny Goodman Big Band and singer Ethel Ennis with a medley of “I Gotta Right To Sing The Blues,” “I Hadn’t Anyone Till You,” and “I’ve Got You Under My Skin.” That was recorded live in Brussels in 1958, part of the Yale University Archive.
MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “LET'S DANCE”
Mark Chilla here on Afterglow. On this show, we’re exploring the many singers who worked with bandleader Benny Goodman.
Goodman grew up in Chicago, and worked as a clarinetist for various bands before winding up in New York. It wasn’t until 1934 when Goodman finally forged a band of his own. At the suggestion of his friend, the record producer John Hammond, Goodman purchased a collection of 1920s arrangements from bandleader Fletcher Henderson, and reworked them for his own band. After a few successful stints on the NBC radio program Let’s Dance and at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles, Goodman was dubbed “The King of Swing,” and the Big Band Era had begun.
Goodman’s break out on the National stage was his hugely successful concert at Carnegie Hall on January 16, 1938, recorded for posterity on Columbia Records. The concert was widely thought of as jazz’s coming out party, bringing the popular genre to the revered concert hall, and making swing a thing not just for dance halls and nightclubs.
Performing with Goodman’s Orchestra on this date was singer Martha Tilton, who sang with Goodman between 1937 and 1939. Here’s Tilton and Benny Goodman’s Orchestra live at Carnegie Hall in 1938 with their top ten hit “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH MARTHA TILTON, “BEI MIR BIST DU SCHÖN”
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra live at the famous Carnegie Hall Concert on January 16, 1938. Gene Krupa was the drummer, Ziggy Elman was on trumpet, and the vocals there were provided by “Liltin’” Martha Tilton.
Five years before this Carnegie Hall concert, which made Goodman a household name, Benny Goodman recorded several sessions for Columbia Records with an ensemble that featured Gene Krupa, Jack Teagarden, and others. The session was set up by producer John Hammond, who had been helping Goodman’s early career along. Remember it was Hammond who found Goodman the Fletcher Henderson Big Band arrangements that would help him become The King Of Swing.
At this same time, Hammond was also trying to jumpstart the career of a 17-year-old singer named Billie Holiday. Holiday’s very first recording sessions ever were a handful of songs with Benny Goodman (there’s a rumor that the two even dated for a while, although it seems unlikely). Here’s one of those records now. Billie Holiday and Benny Goodman and his Orchestra with “Riffin’ The Scotch,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH BILLIE HOLIDAY, “RIFFIN' THE SCOTCH”
A 17-year old Billie Holiday, on her second recording session ever. That was Holiday with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra in December of 1933 with “Riffin’ The Scotch.” Holiday’s very first session was also with Goodman, just a few week’s prior. Interesting story, on that very same session, Goodman also recorded with singer Ethel Waters, and just three days before had recorded with blues singer Bessie Smith, singers that defined the previous generation, just before Billie Holiday revolutionized jazz singing. Talk about passing the torch!
We’re looking at the many singers that worked with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra this hour. The mid-to-late 1930s were the golden years of Benny Goodman’s group. He had several different “girl singers” (as they were called) during this stretch. The first full-time singer was Helen Ward, who sang with Goodman from 1934 to 1936, although Goodman did record one-offs with a few singers during this stretch, including Ella Fitzgerald. It’s thought that a failed relationship with Goodman convinced Ward to leave the group.
Helen Ward was replaced by Martha Tilton, who we heard from earlier live in Carnegie Hall. After Tilton became sick, she was replaced by Louise Tobin, a bluesier singer, who also happened to be married to Goodman’s lead trumpeter Harry James. When Tobin left in 1939, Goodman’s band was in transition. A few temporary singers were brought in for a session or two, including one of the biggest stars of the day Mildred Bailey.
Let’s hear now a song each from Helen Ward, Louise Tobin, and Mildred Bailey… beginning with Helen Ward and “Goody Goody,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH HELEN WARD, “GOODY GOODY”
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH LOUISE TOBIN, “THERE'LL BE SOME CHANGES MADE”
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH MILDRED BAILEY, “I THOUGHT ABOUT YOU”
Three of the singers who worked with Benny Goodman in the second half of the 1930s. We just heard Mildred Bailey with the Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Mercer song “I Thought About You.” Bailey was not a permanent fixture of Goodman’s band—she worked with her husband Red Norvo. Rather she filled in with Goodman in 1939 when there was an opening. Before that we heard Louise Tobin earlier in 1939 with “There’ll Be Some Changes Made.” And starting that set was Goodman’s first permanent singer Helen Ward with “Goody Goody,” from 1936.
In December 1939, Goodman settled on a new permanent vocalist who may be the finest full-time singer his group ever had: Helen Forrest. Forrest was recently late of Artie Shaw’s group, and worked with Goodman for 2 years. She left Goodman for Harry James, who by this time had started his own orchestra, and promised Forrest that she could sing more than just one chorus. Forrest had also apparently grown weary of Goodman’s notorious perfectionism. Let’s hear Helen Forrest and Benny Goodman now with “Taking A Chance On Love,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH HELEN FORREST, “TAKING A CHANCE ON LOVE”
Singer Helen Forrest in 1940 with Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, performing Vernon Duke’s song “Takin’ A Chance On Love.”
MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “AIR MAIL SPECIAL”
We’ll have more of Benny Goodman and the Singers in just a bit.
I’m Mark Chilla, and you’re listening to Afterglow
MUSIC CLIP - Benny Goodman and His Orchestra, “Moonglow”
MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “FLYING HOME”
Welcome back to Afterglow, I’m Mark Chilla. We’ve been looking at the many singers who worked with clarinetist Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, and we left off with singer Helen Forrest, who worked with Goodman from 1939 to 1941. After Forrest, Goodman was left searching for a new singer, and two weeks later he found one, singing at the Ambassador Hotel in Chicago, named Norma Egstrom. She was barely 21, talented but unpolished, and according to Goodman, she was desperately in need of a new name. So, Norma changed her name to Peggy Lee, and would go on to become Goodman’s most successful vocalists.
Here’s Benny Goodman and Peggy Lee in 1942 with the song that made her famous, “Why Don’t You Do Right?” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH PEGGY LEE, “WHY DON'T YOU DO RIGHT”
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH PEGGY LEE, “SOMEBODY ELSE IS TAKING MY PLACE”
Peggy Lee with her two big hits for the Benny Goodman Orchestra in 1942. We just heard “Somebody Else Is Taking My Place,” and before that “Why Don’t You Do Right?”
Lee left Goodman’s group, along with Goodman’s guitarist Dave Barbour, in 1943. She had met and fell in love Barbour while working in the band, and when he was kicked out for fraternizing with the girl singer, Lee followed suit. After Peggy Lee, Goodman’s orchestra went through a series of girl singers who are probably only remembered by the biggest aficionados of this era, including Liza Morrow, Jane Harvey, Dottie Reid, Carol Kay, Peggy Mann, and Eve Young.
Female singers were used most often to front Goodman’s band, but on occasion, a male singer would step out in front. He did a few single sessions or short engagements with some well-known male singers, including Jimmy Rushing, Johnny Mercer, and even Frank Sinatra. But his full time male singers included Art London (also known as “Art Lund”) and Dick Haymes.
Lund worked with Goodman for about a year in 1941, and returned to the band after the war in 1946. Let’s hear Lund and the band in ‘46 with the Irving Berlin song “Blue Skies,” on Afterglow
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH ART LUND, “BLUE SKIES”
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH DICK HAYMES, “SERENADE IN BLUE”
Dick Haymes and Benny Goodman in 1942 with the Harry Warren and Mack Gordon song “Serenade In Blue.” Before that, we heard “Blue Skies,” performed by Goodman and singer Art Lund in 1946.
One of the reasons Goodman didn’t hire many male singers is because, whenever possible, he put himself behind the microphone. Benny Goodman sang on more Benny Goodman sides than any other male vocalist, and perhaps any vocalist, male or female. He had a nice voice: it was light and swinging with a bit of a Johnny Mercer quality to it, although probably not suited for a tender ballad. Here now is Benny Goodman singing alongside Jane Harvey, with “Gotta Be This Or That,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH JANE HARVEY, “GOTTA BE THIS OR THAT”
Jane Harvey, singing alongside Benny Goodman and his orchestra in 1945 with “Gotta Be This Or That.”
The post-war years saw mostly a decline in the Benny Goodman Orchestra. He continued to perform with his big band for the remainder of the decade, but by the time the 1950s rolled around, Goodman was mostly retired. His engagements were primarily live performances abroad, performing in Europe, the Far East, and Soviet Russia. Or he would perform and record with his much celebrated small groups. Goodman started recording with a smaller subset of the orchestra—usually a sextet, but often a trio—way back in 1935, and continued this for decades.
We’ll close off this hour with two glimpses of the later years for Benny. This first song was recorded live in Germany in October 1959, the full Benny Goodman Orchestra with singer Anita O’Day. That’ll be followed by the Benny Goodman trio in 1956, recording a tune with singer Rosemary Clooney.
First, here’s Goodman and O’Day live in Germany with “Honeysuckle Rose,” on Afterglow.
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, WITH ANITA O'DAY, “HONEYSUCKLE ROSE”
MUSIC - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS TRIO, WITH ROSEMARY CLOONEY, “MEMORIES OF YOU”
Rosemary Clooney and Benny Goodman in 1956 with “Memories Of You,” and before that, Goodman with Anita O’Day live in 1959 with “Honeysuckle Rose.”
Thanks for tuning in to this edition of Afterglow.
MUSIC CLIP - BENNY GOODMAN AND HIS ORCHESTRA, “GOODBYE”
Afterglow is part of the educational mission of Indiana University, and produced by WFIU Public Radio in beautiful Bloomington, Indiana. The executive producer is John Bailey.
Playlists for this and other Afterglow programs are available on our website. That’s at indianapublicmedia.org/afterglow.
I’m Mark Chilla, inviting you to tune in next week for our mix of Vocal Jazz and popular song from the Great American Songbook on Afterglow