The challenges of creating correct captions; and Benny Goodman’s “Goodbye” (1935)

“Goodbye”

Composed and arranged by Gordon Jenkins.

Recorded by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra for Victor on September 27, 1935 in Los Angeles, California.

Benny Goodman, clarinet, directing: Bunny Berigan, Ralph Muzzillo and Nate Kazebier, trumpets; Jack Lacey and Red Ballard, trombones; Hymie Shertzer and Bill DePew, alto saxophones; Dick Clark and Arthur Rollini, tenor saxophones; Jess Stacy, piano; Allan Reuss, guitar; Harry Goodman, bass; Gene Krupa, drums.

Golfers from the Benny Goodman band – Los Angeles – August-September 1935. L-R: Bunny Berigan, Sterling “Red” Ballard, Mort Davis (road manager), Benny Goodman, Hymie Shertzer, Jack Lacey. This photo was taken during the Goodman band’s six weeks stay at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles.

Recently, I was talking with friends about creating correct captions for photographs that range in age from 100 or more years to about 70 years. The challenges inherent in doing that are compounded when one confronts boxes of uncurated documents, doodads and old pictures in archives that usually do not relate in any way to each other. Don’t get me wrong, I am most grateful that whatever I find in the various archives I have visited is actually there. I’m sorry to say that a great deal of historically significant material is lost whenever the person who collected it either dies or becomes incapacitated, and his/her relatives have no idea as to the importance of a lot of old unidentified artifacts. All too often, these precious and often unique historical objects end up in a dumpster, and a bit of history is lost forever.

Whenever I was writing “Mr. Trumpet,” I was extremely fortunate to have stumbled across a number of photographs of Bunny Berigan that I had never seen before. I was very happy about this because I wanted to include in the book as many previously unpublished photos as possible. The photo above, which I found in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Bunny Berigan archive, was one such photo. Creating an accurate caption for this photo was relatively easy because many pictures exist of the various musicians in the Benny Goodman band in the summer of 1935. The mystery man in the photo was the only non-musician in it, road manager Mort Davis. His name was written on the back of the actual photo, I think, and that solved the mystery immediately.

Some time later, I came across the photo shown above. Obviously, Berigan is the man on the right. But who are the other two men with him? Under a deadline with my publisher to provide captions for the photos that would appear in the book, including this one, I used the information I had at hand. That included the facts that in the early to mid 1930s, Berigan had reddish blonde hair (it was darker later), and wore small wire-rimmed glasses. Not recognizing either of the other two men as members of the 1935 Benny Goodman band, which Berigan played in in the summer of 1935, and since Berigan did not tour with any band in the summer of 1934, I went back to the spring and summer of 1933, when Berigan toured throughout the South and Midwest, with Paul Whietman. I still didn’t recognize either of the other two men as musicians I could identify from the 1933 Whiteman band (even though an extremely knowledgeable friend questioned whether the man with the hat was long-time Whiteman sideman Frank Trumbauer). I uncertainly submitted the following caption to my publisher: Berigan relaxes with members of the Paul Whiteman band on tour (Texas, April 1933). That caption was published and is in the book.

Almost immediately after the book was published, I got an email from another knowledgeable friend, suggesting the man in the middle might be trumpeter Ralph Muzzillo, who indeed was a member of the Benny Goodman band during the summer 1935 tour, the final stop of which was at the Palomar Ballroom in Los Angeles. (The BG band was very well received at the Palomar Ballroom. Their stay there eventually ran some six weeks.) I started looking through every book I had that might contain a picture of Muzzillo (he was a highly respected lead trumpeter during the swing era), but found only photos of Muzzillo taken from a distance, where I could not see his face clearly. Of course, I also began to revisit the process I used to identify this photo, and began noticing some similarities between it, and the one at the top of this post, of the BG golfers. Although it is not clear if Berigan is wearing the same shirt in each photo, it does look like he was wearing the same trousers and belt. Also, I detected a similar southern California Mission-style architecture in the buildings in both pictures. All of these things suggested to me that the two pictures may well have been taken on the same day at the same place, since the golfers picture was most certainly taken in Los Angeles in the summer of 1935. Perhaps the other picture had in it another musician who was in the Goodman band at that time, like Ralph Muzzillo.

Trumpeter Ralph Muzzillo – late 1930s.

Very recently, while doing research for another blog post, I came across the photo of Ralph Muzzillo at left on the Internet. (It was clearly identified and was grouped with other similar photos about Muzzillo’s work with Jimmy Dorsey’s band.) I immediately went back to the photo with the mystery man in the middle, and came to the conclusion that I could now positively identify that man as Ralph Muzzillo, and that that photo was in all likelihood taken in either late August or in September of 1935 at a golf course/country club in Los Angeles on the same day as the BG golfers photo was taken. It has taken me some nine years, but I think I finally have the caption right, at least as it correctly identifies Ralph Muzzillo. The identity of the third man, however, remains a mystery. The only member of the Goodman band then who looked even remotely like the man in the hat was tenor saxophonist Arthur Rollini, but I cannot identify that man as Rollini with certainty.

The music:  The Benny Goodman band made one Victor recording session in Los Angeles while they were resident at the Palomar Ballroom, on September 27, near the end of the engagement. Three tunes were recorded: “Santa Claus Came in the Spring”; “Goodbye” (printed as “Good-Bye” on the label of Victor 25215-A); and “Madhouse.” “Santa Claus Came in the Spring” is a pop tune that was arranged by Spud Murphy, featuring a vocal by Joe Harris,[i] and a tasty sixteen-bar solo by Berigan, using a tightly fitted cup mute. Bunny also played first trumpet throughout most of that performance.

“Goodbye,”[ii] a lovely ballad, was composed and arranged by Gordon Jenkins, then working in the Isham Jones band. (Jenkins was friendly with Goodman during the time BG was forming his band, and recommended that Benny hire the marvelous, but almost never featured trombonist Sterling “Red” Ballard, who had been working with Jenkins in the Jones band. Ballard remained with Benny until 1940.) By the time this recording was made, BG had decided to use “Goodbye” as his closing theme. This recording of “Goodbye” is magnificent, indeed one of the most memorable of the swing era. The performance is superb, and the fidelity excellent. The Jenkins arrangement has Goodman playing the somber melody, with Berigan behind him, playing a recurring three-note phrase on his straight-muted trumpet. Bunny’s playing here is purely straight, but strangely evocative. The trumpeters in the Goodman band quickly dubbed these three notes the “go-to-hell” notes, and joked among themselves about who was going to play the “go-to-hell” notes behind the boss in the closing theme. While he was a member of the Goodman band in the summer of 1935, it was usually Bunny Berigan. The brief trombone solo is played by Jack Lacey, and the big-toned first trumpet part by Ralph Muzzillo.

[i] Trombonist Joe Harris (1908–1952) was a splendid instrumentalist and fine jazz player, as his solos on the Benny Goodman records of “Basin Street Blues” and “Stompin’ at the Savoy” plainly show. However, he did not play trombone in the Goodman band during its 1935 cross-country tour. He was used only as a “boy vocalist.” The jazz trombone solos then were handled by Jack Lacey, also an excellent trombonist. Harris moved into the trombone section only after Lacey left the Goodman band, which was immediately after they closed at the Palomar Ballroom.

[ii] “Goodbye,” according to D. Russell Connor, was at first entitled “Blue Serenade.” See The Record of a Legend—Benny Goodman, by D. Russell Connor, Let’s Dance Corp. (1984), 58. I suspect that Gordon Jenkins or his publisher changed the title to avoid confusion with a then very popular song entitled “A Blues Serenade.”

 

 

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