1936 April 12

Benny Goodman, Teddy Wilson, Gene Krupa Play First Racially Integrated Jazz Concert in Major Venue


Benny Goodman (clarinet), Teddy Wilson (piano) and Gene Krupa (drums) on this day, Easter Sunday, held a concert at the Congress Hotel in Chicago in the first racially-integrated jazz concert in a major public venue. Goodman and Krupa were white, and Wilson was African-American. African-American and white musicians had long played together in after-hours or private sessions, but never in a public commercial venue.

Goodman had recently emerged as a major jazz star (following a sensational radio broadcast from Los Angeles in August 21, 1935) and had considerable clout with reluctant venue owners (hotels, concert halls, clubs) when it came to breaking the barrier to racially-mixed groups performing in public. There is no record of racist protests of the concert on this day.

Goodman had begun a series of Sunday afternoon concerts at the Congress Hotel with an all-white group in November 1935. In the early Spring of 1936 he invited Teddy Wilson to come to Chicago from New York City for the historic performance on this day. Vibraphone player Lionel Hampton, an African-American, joined Goodman to form a quartet for a few performances on the west coast later in 1935.. Both Wilson and Hampton soon joined Goodman was permanent members of his band. And both went on to celebrated careers as jazz artists on their respective instruments.

Learn more: Ross Firestone, Swing, Swing, Swing: The Life and Times of Benny Goodman (1993)

Visit the Benny Goodman web site: http://www.bennygoodman.com/

Learn more about African American history: Henry Louis Gates, Life Upon These Shores: Looking at African American History, 1513-2008 (2011)



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