In a rare historic pairing, legendary bandleaders Benny Goodman and Buddy Rich team up for what may be their only live performance captured on video. They do Harold Arlen's "As Long As I Live" and then segue into an energetic rendition of George Gershwin's "I Got Rhythm." Jazz history preserved for new generations. Merv Griffin had over 5000 guests appear on his show from 1963-1986. Footage from the Merv Griffin Show is available for licensing to all forms of media through Reelin' In The Years.
Benny Goodman was only 10 when he first picked up a clarinet. Only a year or so later he was doing Ted Lewis imitations for pocket money. At 14 he was in a band that featured the legendary Bix Beiderbecke. By the time he was 16 he was recognized as a "comer" as far away as the west coast and was asked to join a California-based band led by another Chicago boy, Ben Pollack.
Goodman played with Pollack's band for the next four years. His earliest recording was made with Pollack, but he was also recording under his own name in Chicago and New York, where the band had migrated from the west coast. In 1929, when he was just 20, Benny struck out on his own to become a typical New York freelance musician, playing studio dates, leading a pit orchestra, making himself a seasoned professional.
By 1934 he was seasoned enough to be ready for his first big break. He heard that Billy Rose needed a band for his new theatre restaurant, the Music Hall, and he got together a group of musicians who shared his enthusiasm for jazz. They auditioned and got the job.
Goodman was regarded by some as a demanding taskmaster, by others an arrogant and eccentric martinet. Many musicians spoke of "The Ray", Goodman's trademark glare that he bestowed on a musician who failed to perform to his demanding standards. Guitarist Allan Reuss incurred the maestro's displeasure on one occasion, and Goodman relegated him to the rear of the bandstand, where his contribution would be totally drowned out by the other musicians. Vocalists Anita O'Day and Helen Forrest spoke bitterly of their experiences singing with Goodman. "The twenty or so months I spent with Benny felt like twenty years," said Forrest. "When I look back, they seem like a life sentence." At the same time, there are reports that he privately funded several college educations and was sometimes very generous, though always secretly. When a friend once asked him why, he reportedly said, "Well, if they knew about it, everyone would come to me with their hand out."
"As far as I'm concerned, what he did in those days- and they were hard days, in 1937 - made it possible for Negroes to have their chance in baseball and other fields." - Lionel Hampton on Benny Goodman.
Known by musicians for his stand-offish and “cheap” nature, many sidemen had a love/hate relationship with Goodman. Many musicians claimed that Benny was dishonest when it came time to pay off the band and many more recalled the Goodman “ray”, the dirtiest of looks received when a mistake was made. That aside, its clear that without Goodman the “Swing Era” would have been nowhere near as strong when it came, if it came at all.