Friday, October 30, 2009

Benny Goodman's Adventures in Comics did happen

from left to right: Count Basie, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman

The comic strip about the adventures of Benny Goodman's rise to fame did in fact actually happen in real life. There are a few aspects of the comic that did not really happen at all in Benny Goodman's life, of which I will touch upon and give some insight into.

Benny Goodman, who is known both as a great jazz musician and as the "King of Swing" did not become known as that overnight. In the first panel of the comic (copyright restictions prevent me from posting the actual comic), Benny Goodman and his Orchestra are shown during 1934 at a concert at the Broadway Music Hall. As it appears, it seems the people who are watching are very disgusted by the music, as from the grotesque looks on a few of the audience's faces. One woman, who probably seems sympathetic, says it is musician's music, called "swing." When Benny Goodman first started playing as a leader with his own orchestra, the popular music of the time was very romantic music, sweet, sugary love songs (ie. Bing Crosby). This was something out of the ordinary to play this type of music in public. Black bands had been playing it for years, but because of the discrimination of the time, they did not get their due for many years. The second panel also shows the same confrontation that Goodman and his Orchestra encountered. To the romantic music lovers, they hated this music because you couldn't dance to it.

By 1935, Benny Goodman and his Orchestra headed out for a tour that would lead him and his band to the West Coast of the United States. The band was exhausted, tired and ready to give up playing the music they loved to play. That all changed, because the kids in Los Angeles were buying Goodman's records and listening to his radio shows. By the time they went back to New York later in the year, as depicted in the third panel, Benny Goodman became a huge star. Almost every concert they went to, the kids would be standing outside in line waiting to get in. Once they got inside wherever the concert was being held, they would be dancing in the aisles while people would be watching the dancers from their seats. It was truly a "madhouse," as one of the young kids says in the third panel.

The fourth and last panel is dedicated to Benny Goodman's small groups, of which will be forever noted in history books. Benny Goodman, although not one of the first white musicians to play with black musicians, was one of the first to present them in public. The certain lineup of the small group in the last panel did not actually exist in real life, although all of these musicians did play with Goodman at one time or another. Even the musicians in this particular lineup are actually caricatures of their original selves. In reality, Count Basie, who was somewhat a bit overweight in real life, is depicted as thin. Only Lionel Hampton's and Benny Goodman's caricatures are anything what they looked like in real life. I can't say about the other men in the band, as I have seen only a few pictures of what they looked like.
Anyways, this comic I think was meant to perserve Goodman and his real life adventures. It was released in an edition of either a magazine or comic book called "Picture News" in 1946, of which would mark the 10th anniversary of Benny Goodman's popularity in the music world. I am glad that such a comic was perserved for future generations who may want to learn about Benny Goodman or vintage jazz music in particular.

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