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The Benny Goodman Papers

Call Number: MSS 53

Scope and Contents

This register currently describes scores and/or parts to musical arrangements written for Benny Goodman's bands, orchestras, and combos. Some sound recordings are also included. The Papers also include published music in Goodman's collection; correspondence (including letters from many prominent musicians and political figures); photographs; scrapbooks; concert programs and publicity materials; scripts, interviews, and articles; financial and legal documents; awards, honors, and academic regalia; additional sound recoridings and film reels; and miscellaneous other items. Descriptions of these materials will be added to the register at a later date.


  • 1910-1992, inclusive


Language of Materials

Materials chiefly in English.

Conditions Governing Access

The Papers are open to qualified researchers by appointment. There are no restricted materials in the collection. Please contact the Special Collections staff to schedule an appointment. Some of the materials may be stored at the Library's off-campus shelving facility, so researchers should allow at least two business days to have the appropriate boxes paged.

Conditions Governing Use

The Benny Goodman Papers are the physical property of the Irving S. Gilmore Music Library of Yale University. Copyrights belong to the composers and authors, or their legal heirs and assigns. Permission to perform, exploit or record arrangements or any of the materials from the Benny Goodman Papers and Collection at Yale must first be obtained from the Trusts under the Will of Benny Goodman, c/o We Three Music, Inc., Attn: Dorothy Webman, 1650 Broadway, Suite 701, New York, NY 10019 (telephone: 212-586-0240; fax: 928-569-7249).

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The Benny Goodman Papers were established in the Music Library of Yale University by Benny Goodman in 1986.


In 9 series as follows: I. Music II. Correspondence. III. Photographs. IV. Scrapbooks. V. Programs and Publicity. VI. Scripts, Interviews, and Articles. VII. Financial and Legal. VIII. Awards, Honors, and Academic Regalia. IX. Miscellaneous.


106 Linear Feet (129 boxes)

Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


Musical arrangements, correspondence and other papers, photographs, and additional materials relating to Benny Goodman (1909-1986), the clarinetist and band leader. At present, this register consist of scores and/or parts to musical arrangements written for Goodman's band, as well as sound and video recordings and film content. Unprocessed materials in the Papers include: photographs; programs and scrapbooks; and miscellaneous items.

Biographical / Historical

Benny Goodman was born in Chicago, May 30, 1909. He received his first musical training at a local synagogue, and later studied clarinet with Franz Schoepp. Goodman made his debut at the age of twelve, and left home to become a full-time professional clarinetist when he was sixteen.

After a decade of performing as a free-lancer and as a member of Ben Pollak's band, Goodman established his first big band in 1934, and soon it achieved unprecedented success. He won great acclaim both for his dazzling clarinet solos and for the brilliance of his band. In an era of segregation, Goodman was a pioneer in hiring without regard to race; his ensemble included outstanding black musicians (such as Teddy Wilson) as well as leading white performers (such as Gene Krupa). Goodman also employed talented arrangers, including Fletcher Henderson, Eddie Sauter, and many others. At his peak, in the late 1930s, Goodman may have been the most popular musician in the world. His Carnegie Hall concert on January 16, 1938 is regarded as a key moment in jazz history.

Goodman did not restrict himself to big band music; he also won renown for his work with a series of small combos that included Wilson, Krupa, Lionel Hampton, Charlie Christian, and other prominent jazz musicians. He even pursued a classical career, performing clarinet concertos with numerous orchestras and playing chamber music with ensembles such as the Budapest String Quartet. He commissioned major works from Bela Bart'k, Aaron Copland, Paul Hindemith, and other composers.Although the swing era eventually passed, Goodman retained a large and loyal following, even as bop, rock, and other musical styles came into vogue. He and his band performed widely, not only in the United States, but also in Latin America, Europe, the Soviet Union, and East Asia. Over the course of his long career, Goodman made innumerable recordings and appeared frequently on radio, television, and film. His life and music have been the subject of many biographies, discographies, and other studies.

Benny Goodman died in New York on June 13, 1986. Years after his passing, he remains the unchallenged 'King of Swing.'

Register to The Benny Goodman Papers
Edited Full Draft
Description rules
Finding Aid Prepared According To Local Music Library Descriptive Practices
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Gilmore Music Library Repository

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