How Did Jazz Get to Carnegie Hall? Practice

Benny Goodman in 1942. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

On this date in 1938, Benny Goodman and his band played the first jazz concert at Carnegie Hall in New York.

Here are some things you may not have known about the concert, the landmark recording of it and Carnegie Hall in general.

Until 1938, Carnegie Hall had been been a venue exclusively for classical music.

It opened in 1891, built by Andrew Carnegie, who pronounced his name slightly different from the common name of the hall. It was built as the venue for the Oratorio Society of New York and the New York Symphony. Its original name, which remains above the marquee was simply “Music Hall.” After two years, the directors of the hall persuaded Carnegie to allow the theater to be renamed “Carnegie Hall.”

The New York Symphony eventually merged with the Philharmonic Society of New York to form the New York Philharmonic.

Benny Goodman was a clarinetist whose band was one of the first well-known racially integrated bands.

The idea of playing at the Carnegie Hall started as a publicity stunt by Goodman’s publicist. Goodman seized on the idea and canceled several already-set concerts to work toward the landmark performance.

The concert was sold out weeks in advance with a top price of $2.75, which is equivalent to about $50 today.

The concert began with three contemporary songs, followed by a chronological history of jazz.

The show featured performances by Goodman’s big band, his trio, his quartet and guests including Count Basie and Duke Ellington.

The highlight of the night was probably Goodman’s signature tune “Sing, Sing, Sing,” which featured solos by Goodman, along  with Babe Russin on tenor sax, Harry James on trumpet, Gene Krupa on drums and an unexpected piano solo by Jess Stacy.

Stacy, who usually played rhythm on the song, said he was unprepared for the solo, but what he ended up playing has been hailed as a masterpiece linking jazz and classical music, which was quite appropriate for the venue.

Stacy was glad he didn’t have warning of his solo. He said he would have gotten nervous and screwed it up.

The concert was recorded for personal use, and the original masters gathered dust until 1950, when Goodman brought them to Columbia Records.

The resulting album, “The Famous 1938 Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert” was the first double album and has never been out of print since its release. It’s one of the best selling jazz albums of all time.

Carnegie Hall had its first rock and roll show in 1955, when Bill Haley and His Comets played a benefit show. In 1964, The Beatles played two shows on their first tour of the United States.

The New York Philharmonic moved to the new Lincoln Center in 1962. Carnegie Hall was saved from the wrecking ball in 1960 when the City of New York purchased it.

Our question: In which country was Andrew Carnegie born?

Today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day in the United States.

It’s unofficially Elementary School Teacher Day, National Fig Newton Day, and National Day of Service.

It’s the birthday of singer and actress Ethel Merman who was born in 1908; zoologist Dian Fossey, who was born in 1932; and playwright, songwriter and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is 37.

Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.

This week in 1977, the top song in the U.S. was “I Wish” by Stevie Wonder.

The No. 1 movie was “The Enforcer,” while the novel “Trinity” by Leon Uris topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.

Weekly question: What is the name of the current venue of the New York Philharmonic?

Submit your answer at and we’ll add the name of the person with the first correct answer to our winner’s wall … at We’ll have the correct answer on Friday’s episode.



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