Speaker So what about musically?

Speaker Well, I like him first. I liked his musicianship. He was a first class musician and he was a person who basically stride in his own playing for perfection. And I think he expected that for most of the other people that played with him or for him, you know. And so in that respect, I think they have a great deal of admiration for his his ability.

Speaker And you think specifically in examples when you were rehearsing to go to Russia. How he.

Speaker Well, during that time. It wasn't too difficult because a lot of the things that we're rehearsing, most of what we played, we had he had played in 1938, I think, at Carnegie Hall. So he was actually, in a sense, trying to get the same sound, the same kind of feeling that that's the week that they had in 1938. It later on worked more or less to his detriment, because when we were reviewed by some of the critics and I think Seattle, Washington, the first thing they said, the orchestra sounded very good, but it sounded like 1938. But that was also a measure of his trying to get perfection and trying to get the same thing that he had at that time.

Speaker You told me that you were friendly with Jimmy Maxwell. All you had to do to set him up. What kind of guy was or Jimmy?

Speaker Well, first of all, he's he's probably one of the brightest musicians.

Speaker My question will be there to start with his name or just when you are with Jimmy, you're telling your story. Say, Jimmy, Jimmy. I won't set you up.

Speaker Oh, OK. All right. So you just wanted to talk about Jimmy.

Speaker No. Mentioned just mentioned his name. Oh. All right. All right.

Speaker I well, we're talking I say, for instance, Jimmy Maxwell, who is our first trumpet player. Jimmy, in addition to being one of the most reliable lead trumpet players, was is also one of the brightest people in this country. I mean, extremely intelligent. Well read. And a fine musician. And Jimmy and I have been friends for many, many years. We worked hard. We used to do the Patti Page big record, and I played with Jimmy a lot. So he was an ideal guy to be the first trumpet player. In fact, we had a good section and Jimmy. Joe Newman and Johnny Frost and myself, a very friendly section as well as a good playing section.

Speaker I'm curious that he was unusual.

Speaker Big band leaders didn't like Haverstraw Blossom section. That's right. One guy was a lead in. The other guy played jazz.

Speaker Everybody, everybody who participated. Generally, everybody got a chance to do some improvising. And he spread some of the lead parts around, too, because there were certain things that he was cognizant of, the fact that maybe I might play a certain thing better or have a better interpretation of something than the other fellows and vice versa. So everybody generally played what he played best, which is what made the band so strong as Wired. Ziggy Elman, Harry James and all those guys each doing his thing and they all played some lead. And that gave the band a different colors to.

Speaker We've had this, and it's a weird question in a way, but it's not what swing. How do you how would you define swing or what is swing?

Speaker I mean, it's it's kind of it's kind of a hard question to answer. But basically, I guess I could put it in a simple way if if if it makes you want to shake your head or patcher for it, it's usually swinging. I mean, it's sort of a simple way of putting it. But honestly, if you go and you listen to a group playing, especially bands or a small group, and if they're playing something and they get into us, there are certain temples that will cause a reaction from the listener. And if that temple is right and the tune itself, then all of a sudden you get a reaction and people you start shaking their heads or patting their feet.

Speaker And that to me is when swinging is there means immediately very special about the quality of energy. How would you did you relate that either when you were touring with them earlier when they were?

Speaker Well, Terry was was a player like Bennie. They both had a great deal of finesse. They were they were what I would say, finesse players. Terry played an. Whatever he played, he played very smoothly, as they say. There were very few rough edges. Same thing with Benny. That's why many people would criticize him for playing the same solo note for note. But if he did that because it contributed to the finesse of his playing. It's like a symphony orchestra. If you're playing a concerto, you don't begin to improvise on the concerto. You may have a different me phrase it a little differently. But basically, you play the same notes that are originally there, and I think that's what they both did.

Speaker In Lionel.

Speaker I mean, you and I play. Oh, yeah.

Speaker We talked a little bit about Lionel either phenomenon or in terms of Benny Goodman. Yes.

Speaker Well, I must say, I'm not exactly a favorite.

Speaker Lionel, there's not really one of my favorites. And this is for personal reasons, which I won't bother to go into. But as far as the band with the man he had at the time, I went into it. And of course, there were many fine ones after that. But it was an exceptionally good orchestra he had at that time. And I was in addition to the band because they had three trumpets and they decided they were going to have four. And that's why I was made in addition to the band. But that was a band with Ernie Royalle, Carl George and Joe Newman.

Speaker And Marshall Royal was the lead alto player, Jack McVey was playing baritone. They had Ray Perry playing third alto and violin and Illinois jacket and Dexter Gordon, they play with the read Sexy. It was quite a bad and exciting band.

Speaker And Lionel was always heap's. He was always a swinger. He would eat. He's kind of guy that when he got into a groove that would have your head shaking and when you footpads again. So it was a swing band and he still swings today.

Speaker When we spoke on the phone, you. Addressed the point about.

Speaker I mean, Benny said that we were trying a bit before we started filming, it goes both ways about the race issue in terms of his limitations, where people are treating it today. But how would you what would you say? Was it significant or what was the importance of the fact that he. In a sense, integrated jazz right up.

Speaker Well, it I think actually, more recently, I've seen something where I think the first person to have an integrated arc was Benny Carter. But he was in Europe at that time so that when he augmented the band, he had it so good reason that most the other musicians would be white musicians. But here in the case of Benny, I think they knew that they were starting a new trend. I don't think they really realized how far it would go or how successful it would be.

Speaker But they did it.

Speaker And the fact is, the results, pride being being out there, being able to predict the results was not something of great consequence at that time. But it certainly was the door opener for integrating artists, especially in music.

Speaker And something that they should be given credit for.

Speaker Of course, in a sense, when you think of the success of it was also attributable to the people they elected to use in integrating a group somewhat like baseball and Jackie Robinson, Jackie Robinson being the kind of person he was, could withstand a lot of things, a lot of pressure. And in enduring that made it possible for people to say, well, let's give somebody else a break, you know? And the same thing happened with the music. Teddy Wilson, Charlie Christian and Lionel were good people to have in a group like that. And I guess they brought to a to the integration of the white and black approach to jazz, which a little from both sides made it a better a better unit to begin with.

Speaker I mean, that's basically. We're saying that in Chicago brought something.

Speaker They did. And you want to take that? Well, yeah.

Speaker I think that it's of great significance because in the country where over the years, I mean, and even today, we have a great deal of problems with integration. I mean, and the people the mixing of the different ethnic groups were but the musicians, even as far back as I can remember, my father's a musician and he played in a lot of the orchestras in Philadelphia. And so I used to see this when when the musicians would get together. This was the thing that tied them together. And they were just musicians. They were friendly towards each other. They would they would share ideas for the most part. And it was a friendliness that existed within me in the especially the jazz music community that didn't exist elsewhere.

Speaker And were you alluding to something that blacks and whites were different that they would exchange?

Speaker Yeah, I think that yes, they were.

Speaker You know, especially in the playing will say, for instance, that you may play something. And I hear you've got a certain style, a certain way of interpreting something.

Speaker Do it again without you know, I mean, I'm saying you in the third person would want an audience that will say one.

Speaker Yeah. Okay.

Speaker We'll say that, for instance, I'm playing trumpet and you and me and another trumpet player who's a white trumpet player playing something.

Speaker And he and we're playing. He may play a ballad or I may play about it. And all of a sudden he sees, you know, the way he played that. That's a great way to play that. The phrasing is nice on that. And and he may hear me play something and decide that he's I like the way he phrase that. And then he wouldn't take you don't take exactly the entire idea. Would you take parts of it and say, well, I think maybe if I integrate this with my idea that it becomes something else and that's that's actually what happens. It's like, well, I just like you, somebody who has milk and all of a sudden he's got a can of chocolate syrup or something. And the idea she's I wonder how this would work if I put some of this in. And it turns out it's something that nobody expected. And it turns out to be very good.

Speaker You know, it's weird for you, I guess, going back to. Was there any other the famous Benny Goodman, Ray, fooling around with his reeds or not so comic you remember?

Speaker Well, yeah. Well, those those are things that I guess we all we joke about is alive, you know, but they were his idiosyncrasies.

Speaker I mean, it was just what medium Benny Goodman. He had these little quirks. He would stand and say, well, this is just a sort of an aside something you might give your life.

Speaker He was playing in Moscow and he had a folk tune that he kept play and he kept making mistakes.

Speaker And he said he could make a mistake.

Speaker He would not give up. He wouldn't stop play. He kept playing. He'd get the same smile. He'd make a mistake. Or you go a little further, make a mistake. And finally, the Russians started stomping their feet. I. Give them a fight. Some of the guys said that he stopped, that he finally stopped. But he he just kept doing and it was hilarious. Or like we were we were going to do the Rhapsody.

Speaker And of course, Benny was way. I've got to think of the concert pianist, wonderful pianist. Why should I bring this up without being you remember me? At any rate, he was playing the Rhapsody and they had this 10 foot baby grand in Moscow and venues to conduct the orchestra to bring us in. And he kept getting in a position behind the top of the piano, which was up. And the piano could not see him.

Speaker So it was like a joke during a rehearsal. Then he would always manage to get out of his eyesight so that he never knew where the band. What, Benny? Where the cue was when the start. And it just got to be like it was like a comedy for a while. Will we finally straighten it out?

Speaker But this is Chip Benny. These are babies little quirks, you know.

Speaker Well, he'd say he'd look at the trombone section and say, you move a little bit to the right or something.

Speaker Didn't make any difference, Fraley, but he would just do it.

Speaker He would like you know, he would a while in, for instance, in Moscow.

Speaker He he can live off a temple. And I remember what the piece was we would play.

Speaker Now, Lewis was the drummer and he counted it off and we started playing.

Speaker We got into about the first half of the first chorus and Penny stopped him and walked away. A performance established. That's not my that's not my Temple Mount. Not what you're doing. You know, and he's carried it off again. How we play. We play the whole piece. And Mel just sat there with his arm. He never played a note. Not a note. But this again, these are the little things are very good.

Speaker I think we have anything else that stands out that, you know, I well, I must say that in all seriousness, when I learned that he had passed away, I mean, I must say that no matter what your relationship is with somebody, you may not be perfect.

Speaker But I remember I think it was Louie Bellson and Pearl Bailey were going over driving over 50 seconds in the limousine or something, and they had a guy honk horn. They yelled to me that Benny had just died.

Speaker And I thought that was so it was quite sad day because part of my life, too, I mean, my career. And when I look back, I mean, wherever whatever I've done with him, I did some of the things that were worth doing. So you feel kind of a sadness, that kind of a loss when you lose some of the guys at that level.

Speaker Oh. I hope it's is.

Speaker Gulf Theater, and then they went to the garden, the art, the art center, the Garden State Arts Center.

Speaker And that was a great experience because Tony was great then. Lina's very, very I've done a lot of things with her, but they were so friendly.

Speaker It was such a warm atmosphere, like the kind of thing you couldn't wait to get to work, you know, which is just great.

Speaker It's just great. Thanks again. Oh, you're welcome.

Joe Wilder
Interview Date:
American Archive of Public Broadcasting GUID:
"Joe Wilder, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). 04 Mar. 1993,
(1993, March 04). Joe Wilder, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing. [Video]. American Masters Digital Archive (WNET).
"Joe Wilder, Benny Goodman: Adventures in the Kingdom of Swing." American Masters Digital Archive (WNET). March 04, 1993. Accessed May 16, 2022


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