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|B i o g r a p h y|
was born in Chicago, the ninth of twelve children of poor Jewish
immigrants from Hungary who lived in the Maxwell Street neighborhood.
He learned to play clarinet in a Hull House-run band. He became a
strong player at an early age and began professionally in bands while
still a child.
His early influences were New Orleans jazz clarinetists in Chicago, notably Johnny Dodds, Leon Roppolo, and Jimmy Noone.
At the age of 16, Goodman joined one of Chicago's top bands, the Ben
Pollack Orchestra, with which he made his first recordings in 1926. He
made his first record under his own name two years later. He remained
with Pollack through 1929 where he recorded with both the regular
Pollack group as well as scores of often hot sides made smaller groups
of the Pollack band for the various dime-store record labels (under a
bewildering array of group names, such as Mills' Musical Clowns,
Goody's Good Timers, The Hotsy Totsy Gang, Jimmy Backen's Toe Ticklers
and Kentucky Grasshoppers).
Goodman's father, David, was a working-class immigrant about whom
Benny said (interview, 'Downbeat', Feb 8, 1956); "...Pop worked in the
stockyards, shovelling 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,
shoveling it around".
David Goodman was killed in a traffic accident shortly after Benny
joined the Pollack band and had urged his father to retire, now that he
(Benny) and his brother (Harry) were doing well as professional
musicians. According to James Lincoln Collier ("Benny Goodman and the
Swing Era", Oxford University Press 1989): "Pop looked Benny in the eye
and said, 'Benny, you take care of yourself, I'll take care of myself.'
Collier continued: "It was an unhappy choice. Not long afterwards, as he was stepping down from a street car — according to one story — he was struck by a car. He never regained consciousness and died in the hospital the next day. It was a bitter blow to the family, and it haunted Benny to the end that his beloved father had not lived to see the enormous success he, and through him some of the others, made of themselves. It is, truly, a sad story. The years that the immigrant David Goodman had sweated in the stockyards and the garment lofts had paid off in a way he could never have possibly imagined, and he never got that reward."
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