Jazz  •  Big Band/Swing

Sweet Bands

When swing became popular and the big-band craze first landed in the '30s, not every American -- nor every fan of music -- was ready for the hard-swinging style led by Fletcher Henderson and Benny Goodman. The sweet bands, often derided and unfairly compared to those swing bands also active during the 1930s and '40s, came out of a different tradition entirely. Though similarly influenced by jazz maestros from Duke Ellington to Louis Armstrong, the sound of the sweet band was simply an outgrowth from the society orchestra of the 1910s and '20s. Based mostly in New York, hundreds of society bands fanned out across the metropolis each weekend, playing easily recognizable versions of the hits-of-the-day for light dances and debutante balls. The major early sweet bands, Guy Lombardo & His Royal Canadians and Les Brown & His Band of Renown, paved the way for the most popular band of the World War II era, the Glenn Miller Orchestra. And even after large orchestras became unfeasible after the war, the sound of the sweet bands lived on for decades via The Lawrence Welk Show and various big-band tours.