All we've ever used on records are snare drums and cymbals.' Krupa, who had been practicing every day at home, looked crushed. 'How about letting us try them?' I asked. 'The drums are the backbone of the band. They hold us up.' I could see that Rockwell was leery of the whole business; drums or no drums, I figured, we are probably going to get tossed out. 'Let the kids try it', McKenzie said. 'If they go wrong I'll take the rap'. I didn't know until long afterwards that Red had guaranteed our pay for the job'...
Quietly we waited for the playback. When it came, pounding out through the big speaker, we listened stiffly for a moment. We had never been an audience for ourselves...Rockwell came out of the control-room smiling. 'We'll have to get some more of this... (Rockwell nodded towards Krupa): didn't bother the equipment at all,' he said. 'I think we've got something,'.
Krupa also appeared on six recordings made by the Thelma Terry band in 1928.
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 City and worked with the band of Red Nichols. 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 1934 he joined Benny Goodman's band, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. His bongo interludes on their hit "Sing, Sing, Sing" were the first extended drum solos to be recorded commercially. In 1938, Krupa performed with the Goodman Orchestra in the famous Carnegie Hall Jazz Concert.
After a public fight with Goodman at the Earl Theater in Philadelphia, Krupa 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.
In 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, and also featured 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.
As the 1940s closed, large orchestras fell by the wayside: 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.
In 1954, Krupa appeared as himself, along with Louis Armstrong, performing "Basin Street Blues" in the Jimmy Stewart portrayal of The Glenn Miller Story. He also joined fellow Benny Goodman alumni Harry James, Teddy Wilson, and Lionel Hampton in The Benny Goodman Story starring Steve Allen. In 1959, the movie biography The Gene Krupa Story was released, with Sal Mineo as Krupa and a cameo appearance by Red Nichols.
Krupa continued to perform even in famous clubs in the 1960s like the Metropole near Times Square in New York City, often playing duets with African American drummer Cozy Cole. Increasingly troubled by back pain, he retired in the late 1960s and 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 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 Company developed the modern hi-hat cymbals and standardized the names and uses of the ride cymbal, the crash cymbal, the splash cymbal, the pang cymbal and the swish cymbal.
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.
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.
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, Illinois, 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 studied with Sanford A. Moeller and began playing professionally in the mid 1920s with bands in Wisconsin. 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.