Benny Goodman

I think I’ve done a lot in this business, whether through screwball methods or not I don’t know, that has helped other bands. I made a kind of road for them, you might say. If I raised my price, they found out about it and raised theirs. But somebody had to start it, to make the first move. You have to have the courage and confidence in your own ability. You have to know what the hell and who the hell you are in this business. Music may change, but I don’t think that ever will.

I don’t have any great love for Chicago. What the hell, a childhood around Douglas Park isn’t very memorable. I remember the street fights and how you were afraid to cross the bridge ’cause the Irish kid on the other side would beat your head in. I left Chicago a long time ago.

When I first arrived (in New York), it seemed to me the most terrifying city in the world… all those big buildings. I remember walking on Broadway, looking up at this huge, mountainous place-and being so lonely. But things started to clear up when I met a few people on the street whom I’d met before-all of a sudden there got to be a certain familiarity about the place, and the terror kind of evaporated. There was a lot of playing going on, and the New Yorkers, of course, were a completely different crowd from what I’d known.

I think my first impression (of Bix Beiderbecke) was the lasting one. I remember very clearly thinking, ‘Where, what planet, did this guy come from? Is he from outer space?’ I’d never heard anything like the way he played-not in Chicago, no place. The tone-he had this wonderful, ringing cornet tone. He could have played in a symphony orchestra with that tone. But also the intervals he played, the figures-whatever the hell he did. There was a refinement about his playing. You know, in those days I played a little trumpet, and I could play all the solos from his records, by heart.

Some of the guys I played with .. didn’t go around learning more about their instruments from an intellectual point of view. All they wanted was to play hot jazz, and the instrument was just a means. I’d imagine that a lot of them criticized me-said my technique was too good. Something like that. But I’ve always wanted to know what made music. How you do it, and why it sounds good. I always practiced, worked like hell.