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Gene Krupa (January 15, 1909 – October 16, 1973) was an influential Americanmarker jazz and big band drummer and composer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.


Eugene Bertram Krupa was born in Chicago, Illinoismarker, the 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.

Krupa began playing professionally in the mid 1920s with bands in Wisconsinmarker. He broke into the Chicago scene in 1927, when he was picked by MCA to become a member of "Thelma Terry 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 and "fixer" (and sometime singer, who did not appear on the records), Red McKenzie: along with other recordings beginning in 1924 by musicians known in the "Chicago" scene such as Bix Beiderbecke, these sides are examples of "Chicago Style" jazz. The numbers recorded at that session were: "China Boy", "Sugar", "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 in 1928.[28487].

Krupa studied with Sanford A. Moeller.

In 1929, he was part of the Mound City Blue Blowers sessions, that also included Red McKenzie, Glenn Miller, and Coleman Hawkins, which produced "Hello Lola" and "One Hour", which Krupa was credited with co-writing.

In 1929 he moved to New York Citymarker 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, Sing, 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 O'Day 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.[28488] 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 accepted this

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 Shu on tenor sax, clarinet and harmonica. He appeared regularly with the Jazz At the Philharmonic shows. The 1946 film The Best Years Of Our Lives 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 Miller Story, which starred James Stewart, June Allyson and Harry Morgan, 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 Steve Allen (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 Red Nichols.

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 though 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 Yorkmarker at age sixty-four. He was buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in Calumet City, Illinoismarker.


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 drum 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 rim shot 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 cymbal techniques that became standards. His collaboration with Armand Zildjian of the Avedis Zildjian Companymarker 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 Driver; "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 Bros. cartoon Book Revue in 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 Krupa's name and drumming style are briefly mentioned in the episode Hurricane Neddy.

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 drummers.



  1. Allmusic

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