Gene Krupa (January 15, 1909
– October 16, 1973) was an influential American jazz and big band drummer and composer, known for his highly energetic
and flamboyant style.
Eugene Bertram Krupa was
born in Chicago,
youngest of nine children in the family of Bartlomiej Krupa and
Anna (née Oslowski) Krupa.
His father was an immigrant from
Poland, and his mother was born in Shamokin, Northumberland County,
Pennsylvania; his siblings were Clarence, Eleanor, Casimir, Leo,
Peter and Julius.
began playing professionally in the mid 1920s with bands in
He broke into the Chicago scene in 1927,
when he was picked by MCA
to become a member of
and Her Playboys", the
first notable American Jazz band (outside of all-girl bands) to be
led by a female musician. The Playboys were the house band at
The Golden Pumpkin
nightclub in Chicago and also toured
extensively throughout the eastern and central United States.
Krupa made his first recordings in 1927, with a band under the
leadership of banjoist Eddie Condon
"fixer" (and sometime singer, who did not appear on the records),
: along with other
recordings beginning in 1924 by musicians known in the "Chicago"
scene such as Bix Beiderbecke
sides are examples of "Chicago Style" jazz. The numbers recorded at
that session were: "China Boy
"Nobody's Sweetheart" and "Liza". The McKenzie - Condon sides are
also notable for being some of the early examples of the use of a
full drum kit on recordings. Eddie Condon describes what happened
in the Okeh Records
studio on that day
(in 'We Called It Music' - pub: Peter Davis, 1948):
Krupa also appeared on six recordings made by the Thelma Terry band
Krupa studied with Sanford A.
In 1929, he was part of the Mound City Blue Blowers
that also included Red McKenzie
, and Coleman Hawkins
, which produced "Hello Lola"
and "One Hour", which Krupa was credited with co-writing.
In 1929 he
moved to New York
City and worked with the band of Red Nichols.
In 1934 he joined Benny Goodman
's band, where his featured drum
work — especially on the hit "Sing,
— made him a national celebrity
. In 1933, Krupa first played with Benny
Goodman. He became part of the Benny Goodman trio, the first
popular integrated musical group in the United States. In 1938,
Krupa performed with the Goodman Orchestra in the famous Carnegie
Hall Jazz Concert.
Goodman was a difficult man with whom to work, and it was his band.
He'd not worked to establish his orchestra's place on the charts to
make Krupa a star. In 1938, after a public fight with Goodman at
the Earl Theater in Philadelphia, he left Goodman to launch his own
band and had several hits with singer Anita
and trumpeter Roy Eldridge
In 1939, Gene Krupa and his Orchestra appeared in the Paramount
movie Some Like It Hot, which starred Bob Hope, performing the
title song, "Blue Rhythm Fantasy", and "The Lady's in Love with
You". Krupa made a memorable cameo appearance in the 1941 film
Ball of Fire
, in which he and
his band performed an extended version of the hit "Drum Boogie",
which he composed with trumpeter Roy Eldridge.
1943, Krupa was arrested for possession of two marijuana
cigarettes and was given a
three-month jail sentence.
Krupa was not a wealthy man and spent most of
his savings defending himself of this charge and fell into a
depression for several months, believing his career to be over.
Then, Goodman invited him to perform with his orchestra. Audiences
welcomed Krupa's performances, and while the reunion would never
last, Krupa was performing again, thanks to this nudge.
Krupa soon formed his second orchestra. This one was notable for
its large string section, featuring Charlie Ventura
on sax. It was one of the
largest dance bands of the era, sometimes containing up to forty
musicians. He also invited another drummer into the band so that he
could take breaks and lead the orchestra from the front. However,
audiences were not paying to see him conduct, and he gradually
The End of the Swing Era
As the 1940s closed, large orchestras fell by the wayside. For
example, Count Basie closed his large band and Woody Herman reduced
his to an octet. Krupa also gradually cut down the size of the band
in the late 1940s, and from 1951 on led a trio or quartet, often
featuring the multi-instrumentalist Eddie
on tenor sax, clarinet and harmonica. He appeared regularly
with the Jazz At the Philharmonic
shows. The 1946 film
The Best Years Of Our
features Gene in a short cameo. His athletic
drumming style, timing methods and cymbal technique evolved to fit
with tastes, but he never quite fit the Be-Bop
period. For example, the Be-Bop drummers often favoured the top
cymbal, while Krupa routinely favoured the right hand cymbal.
In 1954, Gene Krupa appeared as himself, along with Louis Armstrong
, in the Universal
International movie The Glenn
, which starred James Stewart
, June Allyson
, performing "Basin Street Blues". He also appeared as
himself (as did fellow alumni Harry James, Teddy Wilson
, and Lionel Hampton
) in an equally-bowdlerised
film depiction of Benny Goodman's life and career, with comedian
(whose physical resemblance
to the erstwhile King of Swing was remarkable) playing Goodman. In
1959, the movie biography The
Gene Krupa Story
was released, starring Sal Mineo
as Gene Krupa with a cameo appearance by
He continued to perform in the 1960s even in famous clubs like the
Metropole near Times Square in New York, often playing duets with
African American drummer Cozy Cole
increasingly troubled by back pain. Krupa retired in the late
1960s, and instead opened a music school. One of his pupils was
Kiss drummer Peter Criss
. He occasionally played
in public in the early 1970s until shortly before his death from
leukemia and heart
failure in Yonkers, New
York at age sixty-four. He was buried in Holy
Cross Cemetery in Calumet City, Illinois.
Many consider Krupa to be one of the most influential drummers
of the 20th century, particularly
regarding the development of the drum kit
Many jazz historians believe he made history in 1927 as the first
kit drummer ever to record using a bass
pedal. Others, however, believe this was done earlier by
Baby Dodds. His drum method was published in 1938 and immediately
became the standard text. He is also credited with inventing the
on the snare drum.
Krupa in the 1930s prominently featured Slingerland
drums. At Krupa's urging,
Slingerland developed tom-toms with tuneable top and bottom heads,
which immediately became important elements of virtually every
drummer's set-up. Krupa also developed and popularised many of the
techniques that became standards.
collaboration with Armand Zildjian
of the Avedis
Zildjian Company developed the hi-hat stand
and standardized the names and uses of the ride cymbal, the crash
cymbal, the splash cymbal, the
pang cymbal and the swish cymbal.
The British techno-rock group Apollo 440
had a hit with "Krupa
" which featured
the sampled phrase from the movie Taxi
; "Now back to the Gene Krupa syncopated style." The
song itself is an electronic dance track written in the style of
Gene Krupa, giving the impression of Krupa's style in the form of a
1990s dance track, blending his musical idioms with a modern song
using samples and synthesised basslines.
Krupa was featured in the 1946 Warner
cartoon Book Revue
which a rotoscoped
version of Krupa's
drumming is used in an impromptu jam session.
The 1937 recording of Louis Prima's "Sing, Sing, Sing (With a
Swing)" by Benny Goodman and His Orchestra featuring Gene Krupa on
drums was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
In 1978, Gene Krupa became the first drummer inducted into the
Modern Drummer Hall of Fame.
In season 8 of The Simpsons
name and drumming style are briefly mentioned in the episode
Gene Krupa gets a mention (as Mister Krupa) in the lyrics of The
Look's UK top 10 hit "I Am The Beat".
Rhythm, the UK's best selling drum magazine voted Gene Krupa the
third most influential drummer ever, in a poll conducted for its
February 2009 issue. Voters included over 50 top-name
- Benny Goodman: The Famous Carnegie Hall Concert 1938
- Drummin´ Man (Charly, 1938-41) mit Roy
Eldridge, Anita O'Day, Benny Carter,
- Drum Boogie (Columbia, 1940-41)
- Uptown (Columbia, 1941-1949)
- Lionel Hampton/Gene Krupa (Forlane, 1949) with
Don Fagerquist, Frank Rehak, Frank
Rosolino, Roy Eldridge
- The Exciting Gene Krupa (Enoch´s Music, 1953)
with Charlie Shavers,
Bill Harris, Willie Smith, Ben Webster, Teddy
Wilson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Israel Crosby
- Krupa and Rich (Verve, 1955) with Roy Eldridge,
Dizzy Gillespie, Illinois Jacquet, Flip Phillips, Oscar Peterson, Herb Ellis, Ray Brown, Buddy
- Gene Krupa Big Band: Drummer Man featuring Anita O'Day
& Roy Eldridge (Verve, 1956)