When the ‘King of Swing’ was Here

CVA 2014-089.0604 – Les Guildermeester (I have no idea who LG is or was), Benny Goodman and Hugh Pickett at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. April 1976.

Benny Goodman (1909-1986) was my musical hero during my high school years. No, those years were not for me the 1930s or 1940s. They were the late 1970s!

Yes, I was and am, perhaps, a bit odd. I was turned on to the musical stylings of the King of Swing some forty years after he made those sounds popular; when he was about a decade from death. But thanks to the magic of LP records, I was able to hear him and his trios, quartets, and other sub-band groups as freshly as when they made those recordings.

Well, I can hear you saying, what has this to do with Vancouver as it was?

I’ve just learned, thanks to the Hugh Pickett fonds at CVA, that Benny and his then-Sextet played Vancouver at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in April 1976, just shy of his 67th birthday. His sextet on this tour that included Vancouver consisted of:

Vache and Tate were added as soloists and weren’t, technically, members of the Goodman group. This version of the Goodman Sextet had been on a tour of North American locations: Boston, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver. Seattle and Portland were next (and last) on the tour schedule.

Province. 10 April 1976.

There is another element that makes the Goodman Sextet worthy of mention in VAIW. According to the Sun, Goodman was the first registered guest to stay in the new Four Seasons Hotel at Georgia and Howe (Sun, 23 April 1976). Apparently, Goodman was arriving in the city the day before the hotel was due to open and that made him “the hotel’s first guest”. Given that the hotel was due to close in January this year, this forgotten tidbit seems worth noting.

Peter Appleyard, the Brit who made Toronto his home, was the principal media spokesperson during the Sextet’s time in Vancouver. It was his voice, rather than Benny’s, that was in local news accounts of the Vancouver session. I think it was Goodman’s preference not to talk a lot with media types. He much preferred to play . . . and I still prefer to listen to the King swing it!

The album cover art adjacent was, as I recall, from one of my favourite Goodman recordings. It was made in 1967 and features such classics as “How ‘ya Gonna Keep ’em Down On The Farm” and “Autumn Leaves”.

This online version brought back some memories.

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