The Uncrowned King of Swing: Fletcher Henderson and Big Band Jazz

Research output: Book/Report/Conference proceedingBook


If Benny Goodman was the "King of Swing", then Fletcher Henderson might be considered the power behind the throne. Not only did Henderson arrange the music that fueled Goodman's success, he also helped to launch the careers of several other key figures in jazz history, including Louis Armstrong and Coleman Hawkins, and their work, in turn, shaped Henderson's. Drawing on a wide range of primary sources, including sound recordings, stock arrangements, and score manuscripts available only since Goodman's death, this book traces Henderson's life and work from his youth in the deep South, to his early work as a New York bandleader, to his pivotal role in building the Kingdom of Swing. Henderson, standing at the forefront of the New York jazz scene in the 1920s and 1930s, assembled many of the era's best musicians, forging a distinctive jazz style within the stylistic framework of popular song and dance music. Henderson's style grew out of collaboration with many key players. It also grew out of a deft combination of written and improvised music, of commercial and artistic impulses, and of racial cooperation and competition, and thus stands as an exemplar of musical activity in the Harlem Renaissance. As Henderson's career stalled in the midst of the Depression, record producer John Hammond brought together Henderson and Goodman in a fortuitous collaboration that shaped the history of American music.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherOxford University Press
Number of pages330
ISBN (Electronic)9780199871469
ISBN (Print)9780195090222
StatePublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


  • Benny goodman
  • Depression
  • Harlem renaissance
  • Jazz
  • John hammond
  • Louis armstrong
  • New york

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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