Big Bands & the Swing Era

Of the 1930’s and 1940’s

An American Treasure

Artie Shaw

King of the Clarinet

Born 1910
Died 2004

National Endowment for the Arts

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Artie Shaw

King of the Clarinet

Born: 1910, New York City, NY
Died: 2004, Newbury Park, CA

Early Years

New York, Connecticut, and Ohio


Defining a genre.


The fast tempo music of the 1930’s and 1940’s that the younger generations loved to dance to.

Big Bands

Also known as Jazz Orchestras, Big Bands typically included anywhere from 10 to 25 musicians playing saxophones, trumpets, trombones, a guitar, piano, bass, drums, and sometimes a clarinet.

artie shaw clarinet music

Gifting Music to the World Since 1936

About Artie Shaw

Fact Check

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aArtie Shaw, born Arthur Arshawky on May 23, 1910, in the lower eastside of New York City, New York, died on December 30, 2004, in Thousand Oaks, California. Artie Shaw was an American clarinetist and big bandleader.  

Artie Shaw’s first public appearance leading his own band was in his native New York City on May 24th, 1936. Shaw became one of the biggest names in jazz during the heyday of swing in the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Two of Shaw’s earliest and biggest hits were in 1938. They included ‘Begin the Beguine‘ and ‘Stardust‘. 

Artie Shaw was married eight times including to two of the most popular and beautiful actresses in their day; Lana Turner (1940) and Ava Gardner (1945-46).

Shaw broke the racial divide by becoming the first white bandleader to hire a featured African-American vocalist when he brought Billie Holiday on board in 1938. Shaw also played with vocalist Lena Horne and trumpeter Roy Eldridge, as well as many other musicians of color.

Opinions are divided but many consider Artie Shaw to be the best clarinetist ever, even better than Benny Goodman.  Shaw quit the music world in the mid-1950’s and spent much of the second half of his life devoted to writing and other pursuits. 


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