Composed and arranged by Gordon Jenkins.
Recorded by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra for Victor in Hollywood on September 27, 1935.
Benny Goodman, clarinet, directing: Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet; Ralph Muzzillo and Nate Kazebier, trumpets; Jack Lacey and Sterling “Red” Ballard, trombones; Hymie Shertzer, first alto saxophone; Bill De Pew, alto saxophone; Dick Clark and Arthur Rollini, tenor saxophones; Jess Stacy, piano; Allan Reuss, guitar; Harry Goodman, bass; Gene Krupa, drums.
The story – part 1 – building a good band.
On April 23, 1935, Benny Goodman’s band opened at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York. Aside from their appearances on the weekly NBC Let’s Dance radio show, the Goodman band had worked very little in the spring of 1935. But one very big thing had happened in early 1935 that augured well for BG: his struggling band had been taken on by Music Corporation of America (MCA), the largest and most powerful band-booking agency in the nation. This was a significant development because MCA’s roster of bands, up to the signing of Goodman, was comprised exclusively of either “sweet” dance bands like Guy Lombardo’s or Wayne King’s, or “entertaining” music-cum-burlesque bands, typified by Kay Kyser.
The complete story of why Benny Goodman signed with MCA when he did has never been told, and never may be, not that there is any mystery to it. The bottom line is that MCA’s people were well aware of the success of the Casa Loma band was then having, and knew of the potential for success that the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra had. (When the Dorseys went their separate ways in mid-1935, Jimmy stayed with Rockwell-O’Keefe and Tommy went with MCA.) Both Casa Loma and the Dorsey Brothers Orchestra were booked by Rockwell-O’Keefe, precursor to General Artists Corporation, which would later be a significant part of the success of the Artie Shaw, Glenn Miller, and Woody Herman (1) bands. Someone at MCA sensed that now there might be a niche market for jazz-oriented dance music, and MCA didn’t want to miss an opportunity to get into the action against Rockwell-O’Keefe.
Even though MCA had managed to secure for Goodman a recording contract with Victor in late March, it had not been able to stimulate much interest in the Goodman band among ballroom operators. The Let’s Dance radio show was soon going to be ending. (The last Let’s Dance show was broadcast on May 25, 1935. A few days earlier, the Goodman band auditioned for a radio show to be sponsored by “Life Savers,” but did not get the job.)(2) Goodman’s MCA liaison/manager was a young man named Willard Alexander. He shared what John Hammond in his autobiography described as a “swinging apartment in the Alrae Hotel” with Guy Lombardo’s MCA liaison/manager Sonny Werblin. Alexander “implored (Werblin) to put Benny into the (Roosevelt) Hotel to replace the Lombardo-like Bernie Cummins orchestra, which was going out on tour. Everyone was aware that this was hardly the ideal room for Benny’s type of music, but there was really no other choice. ‘We wanted to get work for the band,’ Alexander explained. ‘Hell, we would have booked the Holland Tunnel.’”(3)
The Roosevelt Hotel gig immediately became a disaster when the room’s staid patrons, accustomed to the dulcet tones of the Guy Lombardo and Bernie Cummins bands, were jolted by the volume and syncopations of the Goodman band. Benny was given notice on opening night. After the Goodman band left the Roosevelt Hotel, they played a few widely scattered one-nighters around the eastern United States. Clearly, the future for the Benny Goodman band looked very dim in the spring of 1935. But Benny, iron willed and ambitious, with substantial help from his bass-playing brother Harry, who was now also a member of the band and a large stabilizing influence on his temperamental younger brother (4), forged ahead. He agreed to let MCA put together a cross-country summer tour, culminating with a stay at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. MCA had long before learned the power of radio in developing an audience for dance bands. The expectation was that the Goodman band’s six months on NBC’s Let’s Dance program would make folks in the hinterlands hungry for the music of Benny Goodman. Eventually, that would be the case, but it did not really happen for Goodman until the following year, after he had spent another six months broadcasting from the Congress Hotel in Chicago, in addition to a regionally broadcast sponsored radio show also emanating from Chicago.
Fortunately, the same obtuse stubbornness that so often was such an exasperating part of Benny Goodman’s dealings with humanity in general in this situation worked to the benefit of jazz fans. Goodman’s analysis of the spring 1935 situation was likely as follows: (1) I’ve put together the best band I’ve ever played in; (2) I’ve gotten a great many wonderful arrangements for this band as a result of the budget for new music on the Let’s Dance show; (3) I am now represented by the strongest booking agency in the band business; and (4) I’ve got a contract to make records. Therefore, I’m going to use all of this to make the best records possible, and I’m going to work with this band for as long as I can, and continue to make it a better band. If I succeed, fine. If not, then I’ll return to the radio and recording studios and earn a good living.
The story – part 2 – from good to great.
The Goodman band produced a total of eight sides at Victor recording sessions on April 4 and April 19, 1935. The records they made at those sessions were good. But in spite of all the talent present on those recordings, and a number of fine arrangements, the whole of the performances was somehow less than the sum of the parts. I am quite certain that Benny Goodman himself had these same opinions when he listened to those records. The spark that elevates solid, professional dance music into the realm of the inspired and exhilarating was missing. Maybe that is why Benny invited the great jazz trombonist Jack Teagarden (5) to play on the April 19 session. For whatever reason, the band with Teagarden did not sound appreciably more stimulated than it had sounded without him.
I suspect that Benny knew all along what, or rather who, might solve this problem. But he was not about to call the man whose last stint with his band had ended so disgustingly, when he fell off the bandstand, drunk(5A)—at least not without some persuasion. Maybe that persuasion came when Benny listened to the records Bunny Berigan had recently made with Red Norvo. Maybe it came when Bunny subbed into the Goodman band at the Roosevelt Hotel. Whenever or however it came, the conclusion Goodman drew was clear: drinking or not, Bunny Berigan would energize the Goodman band like no one else.
A most vivid example of the effect Bunny Berigan’s trumpet had on the Goodman band in the spring of 1935 is to be found by simply playing, in chronological order, the Victor recordings Benny made then. When you go from the gentle, lilting Irving Berlin tune “Always,” which was arranged by Horace Henderson, and was recorded on April 19, with a rather stiff rhythmic feel, to the scintillating “Get Rhythm in Your Feet,” arranged by Fletcher Henderson, and recorded on June 25, you feel as though the band had now somehow been supercharged. (A link to that recording can be found at endnote 5B.) It swings hard from the first trumpet chair all the way down through all of the other instruments, and sitting in that first trumpet chair was Bunny Berigan. The great trumpeter Mannie Klein, a virtuoso himself and an ardent Berigan admirer, summarized the unique effect Bunny’s playing had on a band: “You didn’t know sometimes whether he was gonna show up for a session. But when he did show up—well, nobody played with the balls and the beat he did.”(6) Another example of the difference Berigan’s huge, warm first trumpet sound, and perfect rhythmic conception, made in the overall sound of the Goodman band is to be found in the lovely “Ballad in Blue,” arranged by Spud Murphy. Irving Berlin’s classic “Blue Skies,” in a Fletcher Henderson(7) arrangement, is also indelibly stamped with the mark of Berigan, both as a first trumpeter on most of the performance, and as a perceptive, dramatic soloist whose playing so perfectly captures and enhances the mood of Henderson’s arrangement. “Dear Old Southland,” (7A) arranged by Horace Henderson, is jump-started by Berigan’s careening high-register intro, and then carried along by the irresistible swing of his lead trumpet playing. (Above right: Bunny Berigan in the mid-1930s.)
Six days later, on July 1, 1935, Berigan once again played first trumpet and marvelous jazz solos with the Goodman band at the Victor recording session that produced “Sometimes I’m Happy,”(7B) “King Porter Stomp,”(7C) “Jingle Bells,”(7D) and “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea.” On this last title, the Berigan-led brass bristled.(7E) His electric presence in the Goodman band once more elevated all of these performances into the realm of instant classics.
Benny Goodman undoubtedly shook his head after this recording session, and likely said to himself over and over again: somehow I’ve got to get Berigan into my band!
After negotiations with Benny and Harry Goodman, Bunny Berigan joined the Benny Goodman band at Ocean Beach Pier, Clark Lake, near Jackson, Michigan, for a one-night stand there on July 16, 1935. Also joining the Goodman band there was pianist Jess Stacy. It was understood by all concerned that Bunny’s stay with the Goodman band would be temporary, lasting only until its tour ended, which would be when its engagement at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles was over. Previously, the Goodman band had played a one-week engagement at the Stanley Theater(8) in Pittsburgh (July 5–11), then returned to New York, where Benny and his drummer, Gene Krupa, joined with pianist Teddy Wilson to make the first Benny Goodman Trio recordings at Victor on July 13. (Note: Teddy Wilson would not actually join Benny Goodman as a member of the Goodman Trio until early 1936.)
Benny Goodman and his band pose on the bandstand of the Trocadero Ballroom at Elitch’s Gardens, outside of Denver, Colorado, July 26 to August 15, 1935. In the picture are, back L-R: Harry Goodman, Joe Harris and Helen Ward (vocalists), BG, Nate Kazebier; front: Jess Stacy, Dick Clark, Hymie Shertzer, Gene Krupa, Jack Lacey, Bunny Berigan, Bill DePew, Arthur Rolllini, Ralph Muzzillo, Red Ballard and Allan Reuss.
The itinerary for the remainder of the Goodman band tour is as follows: July 17, Toledo, Ohio;(9) then Olentangy Park, Columbus, Ohio (July 18); Luna Pier, Lakeside, Michigan (July 19); the Mile-a-Way Ballroom, Grand Rapids, Michigan (July 20); and two nights (July 21–22), at the Modernistic Ballroom, 81st and Greenfield, in Milwaukee. It was at this venue that the perceptive (and lovely) Helen Oakley, later the wife of jazz writer Stanley Dance, heard the Goodman band and was bowled over by the playing of Bunny Berigan. From there, the Goodman band, in a caravan of automobiles, made the big jump to Denver, where they opened at Elitch’s Trocadero Ballroom on July 26. This engagement lasted until August 15. On August 16, they played at Grand Junction, Colorado, the next night, August 17, at the Cocoanut Grove Ballroom in Salt Lake City, Utah. August 18 was a travel day. (They needed it because the next stop on the tour was almost 600 miles away.) They then played a one-nighter at McFadden’s Ballroom, Oakland, California, on August 19. On August 20, they appeared at Pismo Pavilion, Pismo Beach, California. The next day, they opened at the Palomar Ballroom, on Vermont Avenue between Second and Third, in Los Angeles, for what was originally scheduled as a three-week engagement.
The many stories about Bunny Berigan that originated on this tour have been told often, so I will not repeat them here. Instead, I am including at this point a few bits of information that will perhaps make the picture of the Palomar engagement a bit more vivid and accurate: Tenor saxophonist Dick Clark, who was a member of the Goodman band then, recalled: “Pismo Beach was a beach-type booking and a pretty poor one. After we finished the job, we drove to Los Angeles in fog, arriving there the next morning just as the sun was rising. We had a rehearsal for the Palomar opening and quite a number of local musicians showed up to listen.”(10)
The first thing one notices when listening to this classic recording made in 1935 is the excellent sound quality that was achieved by Victor’s Los Angeles-based recording technicians. It appears that this recording was made at Victor’s studio, which was then located at 1016 North Sycamore Avenue, which was near to the site of the fabled Radio Recorder’s studio, which was located at 7000 Santa Monica Boulevard. Victor expert and friend of swingandbeyond.com, Joe Knox, from whom I have obtained some information about this recording session, is not sure if Harry Meyerson supervised that session. That man was a magician when it came to recording music in that particular Victor studio in the 1930s and 1940s.
Beyond the technical aspects, the performance of the Goodman band on “Good-Bye” is superb. Benny plays the main melody on his clarinet gently, lovingly; Berigan answers him on his straight-muted trumpet, and plays most of the first trumpet part. The elegant trombone solo on the tune’s bridge is by Jack Lacey. Notice how arranger Jenkins subtly underlined Lacey’s trombone sound with the two murmuring tenor saxophones. The mood the soloists and the ensemble create is somber, contemplative.
Benny Goodman and some of his band members after a game of golf – Los Angeles, September 1935: L-R: Bunny Berigan, Red Ballard, road manager Mort Davis, BG, Hymie Shertzer and Jack Lacey.
The story of how Benny Goodman and “Good-Bye” came together was never told by Benny, at least not to my knowledge. It was told however, by Gordon Jenkins, the man who composed it, to his son, Bruce Jenkins, who later included it in his book about Gordon entitled: Goodbye …In Search of Gordon Jenkins. Jenkins wrote the song in the early 1930s, while he was working with the great songwriter/bandleader Isham Jones. Jenkins submitted the song, music, lyric and arrangement, to Jones, who rejected it because in his opinion it was too sad. At around the same time, Jenkins met Benny Goodman, and began socializing with him. “We used to hang around my Tudor City apartment, playing records and whatever, and he told me he was going to get his own band together for the Let’s Dance radio program.” (Actually, Benny already had assembled his own band in August of 1934, three months before he and they auditioned for the “Let’s Dance” show. MZ) “Jenkins said in a radio interview many years later: ‘…I helped him get some guys (to play in the Goodman band)(10A), and he asked me if I had anything he could use for a theme song. So we were sitting there, having a drink, fooling around with stuff, and I started playing ‘Good-Bye.’ I played a couple of bars and it was like the movies: Benny said, ‘That’s it! That’s the one.'”(11) (Above left: Gordon Jenkins in the late 1930s.)
Bruce Jenkins never got around to asking his father what provided the inspiration for him to compose “Good-Bye.” However, he got the story about that indirectly from Martha Tilton, who was the girl singer with Benny Goodman’s band from 1937 to 1939. Gordon Jenkins had told her about this sometime while she was working for Benny. She was very reluctant to retell that story, but after several tries, Bruce Jenkins got the information from Martha’s husband, Jim Brooks: “What happened …was that (Gordon) had fallen deeply in love with a young woman, and before they really knew what was happening, she was pregnant. In those days, if you got a girl in trouble, it was pretty much understood that you’d marry her. On the day of birth, both mother and child died.”(12)
Composed by Gordon Jenkins; arranged by Bill Holman.
Recorded by Charlie Barnet and His Orchestra for Everest on September 3, 1958 in New York.
Charlie Barnet, alto saxophone, directing: Carl H. “Doc” Severinsen, first trumpet; John Bello, Dick Sherman and Charlie Shavers, trumpets; Billy Byers, Frank Rehak and Chauncey Welsch, trombones; Phil Woods, first alto saxophone; Dick Meldonian, alto saxophone; Dick Hafer and Kurt Bloom, tenor saxophones; Danny Bank, baritone saxophone; Nat Pierce, piano; Barry Galbraith, guitar; Milt Hinton, bass; Don Lamond, drums.
Charlie Barnet started leading big bands in the early 1930s, and kept doing so, with interruptions, until the late 1960s. Although Barnet did not have to keep an eye on the delicate balance between his bands’ income and expenses (he came from a wealthy family), he nevertheless led bands that were almost always profitable, if not huge popular successes. The band he formed in the late 1930s continued to exist, with many personnel changes, until about 1950. After that, he often led small groups, but on occasion would succumb to the temptation to lead a big band again. One of those occasions was in mid -1958, when he formed a band in Hollywood for an appearance on the television show Stars of Jazz, which took place on May 5, 1958. Barnet played a couple of nights at the Hollywood Palladium (August 1-2) with other musicians in a big band before decamping to New York, where he would record twenty-three tunes between August 5 and September 29, 1958. Those recordings were made at five recording sessions with top-flight New York studio musicians, most of whom had worked for Barnet before, and were issued on two LPs on the Everest label.(13) The apparent concept of this recording project was to record updated versions of many Barnet hits, along with refashionings of the hits of other swing era bands, all in then-new stereophonic sound. Almost all of the arrangements for these recordings were written by thirty-one year old Bill Holman. Much good music resulted.
Bill Holman’s arrangement on “Goodbye” is very much in the mood of Gordon Jenkins’s original arrangement. The excellent solos are by trombonist Chauncey Welsh, Charlie Barnet on alto saxophone, sounding particularly robust, and a soaring, emotional exposition by trumpeter Charlie Shavers (his ringing tone and masterful phrasing are quintessential), which provides the first climax for this wonderful performance. The second climax comes via the forte ensemble (led by first trumpeter Doc Severinsen) after Shavers’s solo.
The recordings presented with this post were digitally remastered by Mike Zirpolo.
Notes and links:
(1) Clarinetist/singer/alto saxophonist Woodrow Charles Herman was born on May 16, 1913, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a child, Woody Herman worked as a singer in vaudeville. By the time he was fifteen he was a professional dance band musician. He served his apprenticeship in the bands of Tom Gerun, Harry Sosnick, Gus Arnheim, and most notably Isham Jones. After Jones retired from bandleading in 1936, Herman and five other former Jones sidemen formed a cooperative band in the mode of the Casa Loma and Bob Crosby bands, and began touring. This group was billed as “The Band That Plays the Blues.” The Herman ensemble languished in the ranks of secondary bands until approximately 1944. By then, Herman had gathered a group of exciting musicians and arrangers, and they gained considerable success with a series of excellent recordings, and a sponsored network radio show. This band was dubbed “The First Herd.” Thereafter, Herman formed and broke up numerous ensembles, remaining very active as a bandleader into the 1980s. His later bands attempted to blend elements of rock and jazz, sometimes with considerable success. Due to a defalcation of funds by his longtime manager Abe Turchen, Herman spent his last years deeply in debt to the Internal Revenue Service. He died on November 2, 1987, in West Hollywood, California.
(2) White materials: May 21, 1935.
(3) Firestone: 130.
(4) There is evidence that Harry Goodman was a part owner of the Goodman band with Benny until probably mid-1939. The checks used to pay the sidemen in the late 1930s contained the legend, “The Goodman Brothers Orchestra.” The public was unaware of this because Benny was undoubtedly the music director of the band, and often its most impressive soloist. Harry Goodman was simply a workmanlike bassist who blended in.
(5) One of the foremost trombonists and singers in the history of jazz, Jack Teagarden was born on August 29, 1905, as Weldon Lee Teagarden in Vernon, Texas, into a musical family. He was playing the trombone by age ten. He worked his way through myriad bands in the Texas/Southwest territory throughout the 1920s, before joining Ben Pollack in June 1928. He remained with Pollack until 1933, but during this time made many recordings with other groups. He worked with a number of bands throughout 1933, prior to joining Paul Whiteman at the end of that year. Teagarden remained with Whiteman until the end of 1938, but again took some time to make records with others, and to appear with his brother trumpeter Charlie Teagarden and Frank Trumbauer in a short-lived group called the Three Ts, in early 1937. From early 1939 until 1946, he led a succession of big bands that were either not successful, or only moderately successful. After the final demise of his big band, he led a small group for several months before joining Louis Armstrong’s All Stars from 1947 to 1951. Thereafter, he led his own small bands with considerable success until his death from bronchial pneumonia on January 15, 1964, in New Orleans, Louisiana.
(5A) Even though the incident where Bunny Berigan fell off the bandstand while working with the Goodman band probably happened on the December 29, 1934 New Year’s Eve NBC Let’s Dance broadcast, he was nevertheless back in the BG trumpet section for the very next Let’s Dance broadcast, on January 5, 1935. On that show, Benny challenged Bunny by playing two tremendous choruses of jazz on “Honeysuckle Rose,” then saying in essence, OK Bunny, now it’s your turn. The two chorus jazz solo Berigan played then is unquestionalbly the equal of what Goodman had played. Here is a link to a recording of that incredibly exciting (though low-fidelity) performance: https://bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com/2021/11/22/honeysuckle-rose-1935-with-benny-goodman/
(5B) Here is a link to Benny Goodman’s recording of “Get Rhythm in Your Feet”: https://bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com/2023/01/16/get-rhythm-in-your-feet1935-with-benny-goodman-and-helen-ward/
(6) Lost Chords: 496.
(7) Pianist/arranger/bandleader James Fletcher Henderson was born on December 18, 1897, in Cuthbert, Georgia. He was one of the pioneering jazz/dance band leaders in the 1920s, who helped to launch the careers of many of the greatest jazz soloists of the 1920s and 1930s, including Louis Armstrong, Coleman Hawkins, Benny Carter, Rex Stewart, Roy Eldridge, Chu Berry, and Ben Webster, among many others, who played in his bands. He also employed some of the most innovative arrangers, most notably Don Redman, from whom he and his younger brother, the vastly underappreciated arranger/pianist Horace Henderson (1904–1988), learned a great deal about how to make a dance band swing. Although Fletcher Henderson’s band was a formidable performing unit from the late 1920s into the 1930s, it was a victim of Henderson’s sometimes lax leadership, the Great Depression, and racial discrimination which barred it from many lucrative engagements. From late 1934 until 1936, he and his brother supplied Benny Goodman’s band with dozens of arrangements on jazz originals and current pop tunes that codified swing band arranging to a large degree to that time. Henderson attempted again in the late 1930s to lead a successful band, but it was not to be. From 1939 on, he worked intermittently with groups of various sizes, achieving neither wide public recognition nor notable musical achievement. He died on December 29, 1952, in New York City after having been previously disabled by a stroke.
(7A) Here is a link to the BG/BB recording of “Dear Old Southland”: https://bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com/2020/06/24/blue-skies-and-dear-old-southland1935-with-benny-goodman/
(7B) Here is a link to the BG/BB recording of “Sometimes I’m Happy”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2021/05/20/the-birth-of-the-swing-era-part-2-sometimes-im-happy-1935-benny-goodman-with-bunny-berigan-and-arthur-rollini/
(7C) Here is a link to the BG/BB recording of “King Porter Stomp”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2016/09/12/king-porter-stomp-1935-benny-goodman/
(7D) Here is a link to the BG?BB recording of “Jingle Bells”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2022/12/16/jingle-bells-1935-benny-goodman-with-bunny-berigan/
(7E) Here is a link to BG’s recording of “Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”: https://swingandbeyond.com/2018/06/16/between-the-devil-and-the-deep-blue-sea-1935-benny-goodman-helen-ward-and-bunny-berigan/
(8) The Stanley Theater in Pittsburgh was one of the prime venues for swing era vaudeville shows featuring name bands. This theater, located at 719 Liberty Avenue, was opened on February 27, 1928. Like all big theaters in major cities, it had its glory days in the period from the 1920s to about 1950, when the advent of television and increasing suburbanization caused entertainment-hungry people to stay at home rather than go to a downtown theater. The Stanley was restored in the 1980s by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, and renamed the Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, after Claude Worthington Benedum, whose trust made the largest contribution to the $43 million restoration cost. A wide variety of entertainment is presented there now.
(9) The White materials of July 14, 1935, indicate that the Goodman band played at Olentangy Park in Toledo, Ohio. I think that this is a slightly confused reference to the place the Goodman band played in Columbus, Ohio, on July 18, 1935.
(10) White materials: August 21, 1935.
(10A) The two musicians Gordon Jenkins persuaded to leave the Isham Jones band and join the new Benny Goodman band were trombonist Sterling “Red” Ballard, and tenor saxophonist Dick Clark.
(11) Goodbye …In Search of Gordon Jenkins, by Bruce Jenkins (2005), 3.
(12) Ibid., 4.
(13) Charlie Barnet …An Illustrated Biography and Discography, by Dan Mather (2002), 158-160.