Who’s Fletcher Henderson you say? (or at least I did before yesterday)
You’ve no doubt heard of Benny Goodman. Did you know many of his recordings were actually written and arranged by this man?
In 1934, financial problems forced Fletcher Henderson to sell some of his best arrangements to Benny Goodman, who was then in the process of starting his own band. Henderson’s arrangements were an important element in Goodman’s rapid rise to popularity, which in turn triggered the enormous success of swing bands from 1935 to 1945.
It was in 1935, Goodman’s Orchestra was selected as a house band for the Let’s Dance radio program. Since Goodman needed new charts every week for the show, his friend John Hammond suggested that he purchase some from Henderson. Many of Goodman’s hits from the swing were played by Henderson and his own band in the late 1920s and early 1930s, and usually were head arrangements that Fletcher transcribed from his own records, then sold to Goodman. However, brother Horace Henderson recounts (in Goodman’s biography Swing, Swing, Swing by Ross Firestone) that the clarinettist made heavy demands on Henderson for fresh charts while his band was engaged for the Let’s Dance show in 1934, and that he himself contributed to help Fletcher complete some of them. Vocalist Helen Ward also states that Henderson was delighted to hear the Goodman orchestra realize his creations with such impeccable musicianship.
In 1939, Henderson disbanded his band and joined Goodman’s, first as pianist and arranger and then working full-time as staff arranger. He re-formed bands of his own several times in the 1940s and toured with Ethel Waters again in 1948–1949. Henderson suffered a stroke in 1950, resulting in partial paralysis that ended his days as a pianist. He died in New York City in 1952.
Read more about Fletcher Henderson here.
So all of those great hits by Benny Goodman…..well, you know what happened now.