Regular visitors to the GMC know that I’ve always had a soft spot for clarinet legend Benny Goodman. The Chicago native has shown up in several pieces, including the one that is probably my favorite, Was Benny Goodman A Doppelganger?, but I don’t think I’ve ever written about his early influences, and at least one of them was a guy who’s not nearly as well remembered. His name was Jimmie Noone.
Noone grew up in turn of the century New Orleans, a guitarist turned clarinetist who was playing professionally in local clubs while still in his mid-teens. His style was similar to that of Sidney Bechet, a frequent music study partner during childhood, and within a few years he’d decided to see if Chicago music fans took to his music.
It turned out to be a good move. Chicago in 1917 was just beginning to build into what would become a major center for jazz, and Noone fit right in. As the years passed he worked with legends like King Oliver and Earl Hines, and by the 1920s he’d established his own musical group named for its well-known home, the Apex Club. He also provided inspiration for a rising young Chicago clarinetist named Benjamin David Goodman, who was beginning to find his footing in early jazz.
Noone continued working pretty steadily right through the 1930s and into the 1940s, mostly around Chicago but also at times in New York and even California. He also continued adding a lot of very good records to his impressive list. Among his best were “I Know That You Know,” “Every Evening (I Miss You),” and his theme song, “Sweet Lorraine.” Unfortunately he died unexpectedly in 1944, just 48 years old.