Benny Goodman was an eloquent clarinetist who was proclaimed the "King of Swing" when his dance band soared to fame in the mid-1930s.
Goodman's band attracted national attention by packing New York's Paramount Theater for performance after performance with fans who jitterbugged in the aisles. He also helped give swing respectability by taking his band and other top jazz performers into New York's Carnegie Hall in 1938.
But Goodman got off to a slow start.
In 1934 Goodman's orchestra opened at Billy Rose's New York theater-restaurant, then played the Roosevelt Grill. Neither booking stirred much excitement, but they led to a contract for a series of Saturday night "Let's Dance" radio broadcasts by NBC.
The Saturday night broadcasts were too late to attract many listeners in the East, but young people had heard them on the West Coast. On opening night, Aug. 21, 1935, a large crowd was in the Palomar to hear the Goodman band in person.
In 1938 Goodman began to build his parallel career as a classical clarinetist, eventually recording with the Budapest String Quartet and commissioning composer Bela Bartok to write for him a work he recorded in 1940 with violinist Joseph Szigeti.
Goodman continued to make jazz appearances and to assemble swing bands for major tours—including a highly successful one through the Far East in the winter of 1956-57 and a remarkable chain of swing concerts in the Soviet Union in 1962.
In 1978, on the 40th anniversary of his first big Carnegie Hall concert, Goodman returned to that scene for another big band performance. Of all the famous performers who had worked for him in the past, few were there that night. Perhaps expecting that the magic would still be there, the critics were not kind.