MUSIC 162 - SPRING 2008
American Pop Song
Swing Era (1935-1945) and Post-War Popular Music
A. Swing Bands
Benny Goodman and his Orchestra : "King Porter" (Music, Ferdinand "Jelly
Roll" Morton; arranger, Fletcher Henderson)
Benny Goodman was born in a Chicago ghetto in 1909, the son of a Russian immigrant. He
made his first records under his own name in 1927, and worked as a free-lance musician during
the Depression years. Goodman's career as a bandleader was boosted by wealthy promoter John
Hammond, who also helped Bessie Smith, Billie Holiday, Count Basie, and Bruce Springsteen.
Hammond arranged the Goodman band's first recording dates and set up the purchase of a group
of Fletcher Henderson's best arrangements. Although initial audience reaction was not
enthusiastic, the band went on a national tour in 1935, culminating in spectacular successes in
California. The Goodman band had appeared regularly on a national live radio show called "Let's
Dance"; because they always played last, more West coasters were up to hear them, and the band
had become very popular.
This band started the swing craze, and Goodman became known as the "King of Swing."
Goodman's band was the first to give current Tin Pan Alley hits a jazzy treatment. It was also the
first white band to include black musicians, beginning with pianist Teddy Wilson. "King Porter"
was first recorded by Fletcher Henderson's band in 1932 as the "New King Porter Stomp."
Goodman's success was in part based upon emulation of the arranging techniques and swinging
pulse of black dance bands. The riffs and call-and-response patterns between reeds and brass are
well-rehearsed, and the rhythm section plays a
steady 4-beat pulse with emphasis on the second
and fourth beats. Goodman plays the clarinet solo, Bunny Berigan the trumpet solo. Gene Krupa
is the drummer.
Duke Ellington and his Famous Orchestra : "The New East St. Louis Toodle-O"
(Music and arrangement, Edward Kennedy Ellington)
Edward Kennedy Ellington (1899-1974) was a major force in twentieth century American music.
Born in Washington, D.C., he came from a
urban middle-class background. His first band, the
Washingtonians, played syncopated dance music in New York in the early 1920s. His band held
engagements at a number of New York clubs, most notably the Cotton Club in Harlem (1927-
1931). Ellington's highly individualistic approach to writing for big band included the
rich tone colors (often by writing for unusual combinations of instruments, or putting instruments
in extreme registers) and dissonant chord voicings. Another hallmark of the Ellington style was
his practice of writing to emphasize the strengths of particular members of his band, some of
whom were with him for half a century.