“Sometimes I’m Happy”
Composed by Vincent Youmans; arranged by Fletcher Henderson.
Recorded by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra for Victor in New York on July 1, 1935.
Benny Goodman, clarinet, directing: Bunny Berigan, first and solo trumpet; Ralph Muzzillo and Nate Kazebier, trumpets; Jack Lacey, first trombone; Sterling “Red” Ballard, trombone; Nuncio “Toots” Mondello, first alto saxophone; Hymie Shertzer, alto saxophone; Arthur Rollini and Dick Clark, tenor saxophones; Frank Froeba, piano; George Van Eps, guitar; Harry Goodman, bass; Gene Krupa, drums.
The story of Bunny Berigan’s various associations with Benny Goodman in the period 1934-1935 is told in a number of other posts here bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com. In addition, there is a detailed post as swingandbeyond.com, the sister blog of bunnyberiganmrtrumpet.com, on the Benny Goodman recording of “Sometimes I’m Happy.” Please go the the links at the bottom of this post to access those stories and music.
“Some great show tunes have (had) an uncommonly hard time ever getting to Broadway. (The) Gershwins’ ‘The Man I Love” was put in four shows, and stayed in none of them. ‘Sometimes I’m Happy’ Had to make two false starts before coming into its own. Vincent Youmans wrote it in 1923 for a musical called Mary Jane McCane. It was initially called Come ON and Pet Me, and had a lyric by Oscar Hammerstein II and William Clay Duncan. It was cut before the show reached Broadway. With a new lyric by Irving Caesar and Clifford Grey, and a new title, ‘Sometimes I’m Happy,’ it went into a new show called A Night Out, which opened and then closed there. Youmans finally anchored the song in the 1927 Broadway show Hit The Deck.
“Fletcher Henderson had made a simple, artful arrangement of ‘Sometines I’m Happy’ for his own band, but when he began writing arrangements for Benny Goodman in 1935, he wrote an entirely new one for Benny. ‘We made one of the most important discoveries of all’ Goodman wrote (in 1939) in his autobiography, The Kingdom of Swing, that Fletcher Henderson, in addition to writing big (swinging) arrangements, could also do a wonderful job on such melodic tunes as ‘Blue Skies,’ and ‘Sometimes I’m Happy.’ Up to that time, the only kind of arrangements that the public had paid much attention to were elaborate ones, like some Ferde Grofe’ wrote for Paul Whiteman. But the art of making an arrangement a band can play with swing, one that really helps a solo player to get off and gives him the right background to work against–that’s something that very few musicians can do. The whole idea is that the ensemble passages have to be written in more or less that same style that a soloist would use if he were improvising. What Fletcher could do so wonderfully well was to take a tune like ‘Sometimes I’m Happy,’ and really improvise on it himself, with the exception of certain parts which would be marked solo trumpet or tenor or clarinet. Even here the background for the rest of the band would be in the same consistent vein so the whole thing really hung together snd sounded unified. In all these respects, Fletcher’s ideas were far ahead of anybody else’s at that time.” (1)
Although Fletcher Henderson wrote many arrangements for Benny Goodman (and quite a few that ended up in the repertoire of Bunny Berigan’s band), this one is surely one of his finest.
Links and notes:
(1) The Swing Era – 1930-1936, (1971), notes on the music by Joseph Kastner, 56.
Here are the links to the stories that detail the relationship between Bunny Berigan and Benny Goodman in the years 1934-1935: