“I’m a Ding Dong Daddy (from Dumas)”
Composed by Phil Baxter; head arrangement by the Benny Goodman Quartet.
Recorded live from a CBS Camel Caravan radio show from the stage of the Palace Theater, Milwaukee, Wisconsin on October 18, 1938.
Benny Goodman, clarinet; Teddy Wilson, piano; Lionel Hampton, vibraphone; Dave Tough, drums.
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People who are familiar with the great musicians of the swing era know that the original Benny Goodman Quartet was comprised of Benny on clarinet, Teddy Wilson on piano, Lionel Hampton on vibraphone, and Gene Krupa on drums. Each of these musicians was a master of his instrument, who could and frequently did play spectacular, crowd-pleasing solos. When Krupa left Goodman in early March of 1938 essentially to form his own band, Benny cast about to find a replacement. That was easier said than done.
Gene Krupa, in addition to being an excellent drummer, was a natural showman, who with his good looks, marvelous hair, and brilliant smile, enchanted audiences with his increasingly wild histrionics while playing his drums. There is no doubt that besides Benny himself, one of the most powerful audience-pleasers in the early Goodman band was Gene Krupa. In fact, Gene may have been more popular with audiences than Benny himself, something that definitely rubbed Benny the wrong way. So, Benny held auditions for the all-important drum chair in his band. A number of flashy drummers auditioned because the job they were seeking was one of the highest-profile and best paying in the kingdom of swing. What none of these drummers then knew was that Benny had become very irritated with Krupa’s ever-increasing, overly-dramatic behavior while playing his drums in the Goodman band. Within a short time, Benny knew that none of these drummers would fulfill what he perceived as the role of the drummer in his band. He wanted a good, swinging, preferably quiet, drummer, not another Krupa.
Meanwhile, the drummer Dave Tough, after almost two years with Tommy Dorsey’s successful band (they, like the Goodman band, also had their own radio show), had left the Dorsey band in early 1938 to play with Bunny Berigan’s fast-rising band. Tough and Berigan were in perfect synch musically: both liked nothing more than to swing hard when playing. Working through intermediaries, Benny contacted Tough with a monetary offer that Berigan could not match. Bunny did not like losing Tough, but he never stood in the way of any musician making more money than he could afford to pay. Thus, Dave Tough joined Benny Goodman’s band on March 19, 1938.
The first thing Tough said to BG upon joining his band was: “I’m no Krupa.” Benny certainly understood that. In fact, that was precisely why he hired Tough.
Since Tough’s playing was so unlike Krupa’s, Goodman audiences and some critics, pining for Gene, were rather slow to catch on to who and what Dave Tough was. Less astute swing critics and fans began to criticize Tough for not playing in the sensational Krupa manner. Benny and the musicians in his band shrugged this off, because they immediately detected what Tough brought to their performances. One historian described it this way: “(Dave Tough) …was a very fine drummer, one with that indefinable quality called ‘lift,’ a kind of buoyancy underneath the (music) that raised, rather than propelled, the musicians to superior play.”(1) Put another way, Dave Tough knew how to make any band of musicians he played with swing harder than they knew was possible. In short order, the Benny Goodman band and small groups were swinging very strongly with Tough in the drummer’s seat.
Benny Goodman cues Dave Tough in an action shot from May of 1938. The guitarist is Benny Heller; the head behind Heller’s is Vernon Brown; to Brown’s left is Harry James.
Dave Tough excelled at doing whatever magical things at the drums he could that would make any band, or indeed any small group he played in, sound better, and swing, no matter what the tempo. The number of swing era musicians who said that Tough was the best drummer they ever worked with is great. The thinking among those musicians was that Tough’s basic orientation while playing was first to listen to what was going on at any given moment, and then to do whatever he could at the drums to enhance that.
The issue of Dave Tough not taking solos in the flamboyant Krupa tradition was what Dave was referring to when he told Benny Goodman: “I’m no Krupa.” Tough seemingly did not like to play solos. That of course does not mean that he did not play them, nor does it mean that he did not have the technique to play them. In the Goodman band, it was expected from the very beginning that Tough would have to play solo on their great showpiece “Sing, Sing, Sing.” He did that.
The Benny Goodman Quartet with Dave Tough – 1938.
One of the first things Benny did after Dave Tough joined his band was to schedule (on March 25, 1938) a five-tune recording session for his trio, which recorded “Sweet Lorraine,” and his quartet, which recorded a two-part blues, “Sugar,” and “Dizzy Spells.” The recordings produced are unusual for a number of reasons. Four of the five tunes recorded are taken at slow tempi, with Tough’s playing being so restrained as to barely be audible. The final tune recorded, “Dizzy Spells,” is more lively, but still presents Tough in a somewhat subdued way. Tough was treading lightly. Benny Godman’s decades-long hyper-critical fixation with drummers appears to have begun with that session.
Fortunately, what Benny was seeking was something that did not necessarily run contrary to Dave Tough’s personality as a percussionist. As their musical association continued (they had know each other since they were adolescents in Chicago, and joined the musicians’ union on the same day), Tough’s playing remained quiet, but supportive, colorful, and when necessary, forceful. And he always swung.
Moreover, Tough’s tenure with the Goodman band marked a definite period of change for the BG ensemble. After a long period of personnel stability, a number of musicians left the Goodman band. Among their replacements: Bud Freeman on tenor saxophone; Noni Bernardi on lead alto saxophone; Dave Matthews on alto saxophone; Ben Heller on guitar. Vernon Brown on trombone had joined a few months earlier. Benny was also now buying arrangements from Edgar Sampson, who specialized in relaxed swing. The winds of change were definitely buffeting Benny Goodman’s band in early to mid-1938.
None of this made much difference to Benny’s fans. They listened to him weekly on his Camel Caravan radio show, bought his Victor records and turned out in droves to hear his band and small groups in person. 1938 was a bonanza year for BG. He was so busy and making so much money that he thought, with justification, that after four years of non-stop work, he was entitled to take a vacation. He did that from July 13 through August 1, traveling to Europe for the first time. His band continued to perform on the Camel Caravan while he was gone, being led by Harry James. Name bandleaders Guy Lombardo and Ben Bernie helped out with the scripted patter during this time. Dave Tough also apparently took a vacation at that same time, with his chair being filled by either Lionel Hampton, or Jo Jones from Count Basie’s band.
Soon after Benny returned from his vacation, he and his band started a summer tour, which was interrupted by a two-week stay at the Chicago Theater, starting on September 2. After that, they made some records for Victor in Chicago (September 12, 13 and 14), and toured, including a Camel Caravan broadcast from Kansas City on September 20. Probably some one-nighters ensued. By October 10, they were back in Chicago, playing for a time at the Aragon Ballroom. While in Chicago in October, they also made two more Victor recording sessions: on the 12th with the Trio/Quartet, and on the following day with the big band. Then they played a stand at the Orpheum Theater in Minneapolis, possibly a split-week, because they broadcast a Camel show from the Palace Theater in Milwaukee on October 18. (The recording presented with this post was taken from that broadcast.) After a brief stop in Boston (Boston Garden on October 24), the Goodman aggregation finally returned to New York, broadcasting the Camel Caravan from there on October 25.
Benny Goodman and his band onstage at a theater in Kansas City circa September 20, 1938. L-R front: Jess Stacy, Ben Heller, Bud Freeman, Noni Bernardi, Dave Matthews, Arthur Rollini; back: Harry Goodman, Dave Tough, Chris Griffin, Ziggy Elman, Harry James, Vernon Brown, Red Ballard.
The next evening, they opened an extended stay at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in Manhattan. Dave Tough failed to appear for that opening. Benny, enraged, fired Tough, and had to use Lionel Hampton as a drummer for a time, until he could once again audition drummers and find someone who could meet his ever-increasing expectations. It appears that this process took a couple of weeks. By mid-November, Benny had hired another drummer, and a very good one, Buddy Schutz.(2)
The music played by Benny Goodman with his big band and small groups on the Camel Caravan in the period from mid-1936 until the end of 1939, much of which was recorded on airchecks, is not only some of the best ever made by Goodman, it is also some of the best made by anyone during the swing era. The reasons for this include that all of the musicians involved were very talented, they were young, mostly in their twenties or early thirties (BG himself was only 29 years old in 1938), physically strong, and emotionally inspired by the large and enthusiastic audiences that greeted them everywhere they performed. In addition, they were playing together almost every day, often playing very hard. Consequently, they had developed what jazz musicians call “road chops,” meaning that their instrumental technique was honed to a sharp edge. Finally, they had achieved an almost unreal integration as a performing unit.
The Benny Goodman Quartet onstage in a theater in Kansas City in September of 1938: Teddy Wilson, Lionel Hampton, Benny Goodman, Dave Tough.
All of this is apparent in this exciting, in-performance recording from the Camel Caravan radio show broadcast from the stage of the Palace Theater in Milwaukee on October 18, 1938. The tune, “I’m a Ding Dong Daddy (from Dumas),” was a novelty item that originated in 1928 in a recording by its composer, vocalist Phil Baxter, with Phil Harris and his orchestra. It had been presented in many comedic settings since then. Jazz musicians would occasionally spice their programs with this light-hearted tune, including its humorous lyric, usually getting a good response from their audiences. Benny Goodman seems to have liked presenting this tune instrumentally because of the opportunities in presented him to display not only his dazzling technique on clarinet, but also his great ability to improvise scorching hot jazz.
BG took very seriously the idea that his audiences thought of him as the King of Swing. Nowhere is there better evidence of him swinging at a virtuoso level than what we hear in this performance, which is definitely meant to stir the audience. At every moment of this fleet jazz exposition, drummer Dave Tough is there, doing what he did best, supporting the soloists and enhancing the music. And as a most special treat, we hear him cut loose with a solo at the end.
The recording presented with this post was digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Notes and links:
(1) Benny Goodman …The Record of a Legend, by D. Russell Connor (1984), 96.
(2) Ibid. 96-104. Many of the details concerning Benny Goodman’s activities through September of 1938 were inaccurately reported in Russ Connor’s Benny Goodman …The Record of a Legend (1984). Fortunately, Mr. Connor was able to correct some of that misinformation in his later (1996) supplement to his ongoing work documenting Benny Goodman’s career, Benny Goodman …Wrappin’ It Up, at pages 146-147.
The story of drummer Buddy Schutz’s tenure with Benny Goodman, and his increasingly fraught relationship with BG, is told in this post: https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/10/06/undecided-1938-benny-goodman-more-tales-from-the-kingdom-of-swing/
Here is a link to more music featuring Dave Tough’s drumming, and some background on his life and career: https://swingandbeyond.com/2019/03/23/flat-foot-floogie-1938-benny-goodman-with-harry-james-and-dave-tough/