Tomorrow marks the 100th birthday of Benny Goodman, clarinetist known as the King of Swing.
Seventy-two years ago, the Benny Goodman Trio, consisting of drummer Gene Krupa, pianist Teddy Wilson and clarinetist Goodman, appeared on a Sunday night in September of 1937 at Springlake Casino.
Springlake Amusement Park was across from the zoo on Martin Luther King Boulevard and was an entertainment mecca for Oklahoma City for 59 years. It opened on May 21, 1922, as Springlake Pavilion, inviting people to dance to the Al Davis Band in ” the Coolest Spot in Town.”
Two years later, in 1924, two concrete pools opened and in 1926 the famed Big Dipper was introduced to eager park visitors.
The park also became a venue for big name entertainers. Herbie Kay, Rudy Vallee, The Four Preps, Marty Robbins, Brenda Lee, Minnie Pearl, Roger Miller, Johnny Cash and the Beach Boys all played at Springlake.
In 1937, the “ballroom” was called the Springlake Casino, and it welcomed Benny Goodman, whose ” “hot licks” and “dirty” music, have made him the new sensation of jazz” ” for a one night stand.
The Oklahoman for September 20, 1937, carried this short item:
Goodman Band Is Magnet for 2,500
Benny Goodman blew on his clarinet and the boys and girls from miles around swung it Sunday night at Springlake amusement park.
Attendance was estimated at 2,500. Goodman, known as the King of Swing and his band stopped over for one night on their way east.
Goodman, who died in 1986, visited Oklahoma several more times, most notably in 1962 when he appeared with the Oklahoma City Symphony to a crowd estimated between 4,200 and 5,000.
Springlake closed in 1981, but the memories of warm summer nights and wonderful music still linger.
To learn more about Benny Goodman go to www.bennygoodman.com, “The Official Website of the King of Swing.” A history “Springlake Amusement Park” by Doug Loudenback was published in 2008 .