Some Reflections on Benny Goodman at Carnegie Hall

Benny Goodman’s jazz concert at Carnegie Hall on January 16, 1938, was the first jazz concert to be held there. It was historic in a number of ways. It was the first time that the band had performed in a strictly concert setting. That is, no dancing and no alcohol. It also was an integrated band when the custom was that bands were not integrated. In January 1988, the New Jersey Jazz Society (NJJS) put on a 50th anniversary concert in Carnegie Hall. My wife Betty and I were privileged to attend. Tickets were also purchased for Jazz Society of Pensacola members Mack and June Miller, and Holliday and Mary Veal. Unfortunately, June was diagnosed with cancer and complications prevented the Veals from attending. Those tickets were returned and resold by the NJJS. Clarinetist Bob Wilber was to perform Goodman’s part. Permit me some observations about the concert: There were chairs set up on the stage behind the band. The explanation for this was that Goodman had about 30 persons he had invited to the concert but had forgotten to ask for tickets. When told that the concert had been sold out, chairs were set on stage to accommodate his guests. Before the band began to perform, audience members who had been at the original concert were invited to stand. There must have been sixty or so in the audience who stood. The gentleman sitting beside me, one who got the Pensacola return t
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Dr. F. Norman Vickers is a founder of the Jazz Society of Pensacola/Pensacola Jazzfest and a charter member of the Jazz Journalists Association.

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