Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson: Taking the Stage as the First Black and White Jazz Band in History by Lesa Cline-Ransome, illustrated by James E. Ransome

Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson


Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson traces the very different backgrounds of two very talented musicians who eventually met and formed the first interracial trio to play in public.

In the 1920s, Jazz was the music of the moment. Benny Goodman, the son of Jewish immigrants and living in Chicago, learned to play the clarinet when he and his brothers were signed up for free lessons at their synagogue and playing in its marching band, but he much preferred the exciting sounds of Jazz.

Teddy Wilson, the son of music educators living in Tuskegee, Alabama, learned to play the piano, the oboe, the violin and the piano as a child, dutifully practicing classical music, but he, too, preferred the cool Jazz sounds of Duke Ellington, Fats Waller, and Earl Hines.

As men, both continued to play in different venues around the country, earning the admiration and respect of their fellow Jazz musicians. But the stage was a segregated world, and it was only in jam sessions offstage that musicians from different races could play together. Then one day, in Forest Hills, Queens, NY, their two men met and it was kismet – two different men who thought the same way musically.

Along with Gene Krupa, the Benny Goodman Trio was formed and beautiful music was made. There was just one problem – Goodman was reluctant to play onstage with a black musician. But finally he said yes, and not just music, but history was made. And people loved their sound! Lionel Hampton later joined them and the trio became a quartet.

Can you tell I love this book? Well, I love music, especially Jazz and Swing. And the husband and wife duo of author Lesa Cline-Ransome and illustrator James Ransome has done a suburb job of making the story of these two great musicians accessible to young readers. The snappy language used to tell the story along with illustrations in cool blues and hot yellows make reading Benny Goodman & Teddy Wilson feel like you are listening to a good Jazz performance.

There is plenty of back matter giving more information on Benny Goodman and Teddy Wilson, a Jazz timeline focused on these two men, and a who’s who in Jazz, including all the musicians mentioned in the book. This is such an excellent addition to the growing body of Picture Books for Older Readers that are ideal for introducing young readers to new people and events.

I’ve often wished that there were books like this around when my Kiddo was young. Every time I tried to introduce her to things like Jazz, Swing, Classical, even Classic Rock, I met resistance. But as she grew older, she began to embrace these different musical genres and significantly expanded her musical appreciation and seriously wanted to know why didn’t I ever tell her about this great music?

This book is for readers aged 7+
This book was purchased for my personal library

It’s Nonfiction Monday!