Benny Goodman - in the heyday of Big Bands - dubbed The King Of Swing.
Benny Goodman – in the heyday of Big Bands – dubbed The King Of Swing.

The Camel Caravan With Benny Goodman And His Orchestra – Sept.6, 1938 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection

As long as I’ve been posting on the weekend Downbeat page, I’ve never gotten around to posting anything from the acknowledged Big Band Era of the 1930s – certainly no live material. No good reason, aside from looking for something that hasn’t been over-exposed. I ran across this excellent sounding example, by way of the series Benny Goodman and his Orchestra did for CBS Radio in the late 1930s. Sponsored by Camel Cigarettes (yes, for those of you not familiar – Cigarettes were a huge advertising staple on radio, and later on TV all the way to 1970), the series featured, among others, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, during what is probably the peak of their popularity.

Although Goodman would be a staple in the diet of Jazz all the way till his death in 1986, it was this formative period; the 1930s, where Goodman became the catalyst for the genre known as Swing Music. In doing that, he brought a level of mainstream appeal to Jazz which hadn’t been present before. There were stabs at it – certainly the Paul Whiteman attempts in the 1920s laid the groundwork. But more than that, Goodman’s band was one of the first to break the color barrier; something unheard of at the time. It would be one of the first attempts at integrating a commercial art form. It would also be a springboard for the careers of Teddy Wilson and Lionel Hampton.

If you aren’t familiar with the genre of Swing Music, or Big Band Swing, here’s a taste of what it sounded like at the peak of its popularity, when it was new and audiences were catching the thrill for the first time. Benny Goodman and His Orchestra on The Camel Caravan – CBS Radio – September 6, 1938.

Apologies to non-smokers for including the Camel Cigarette ads, but it’s history and we don’t rewrite it.


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