Gene Krupa (January 15, 1909 - October 16, 1973) was a famous and influential Polish-American jazz and big band kit drummer, known for his highly energetic and flamboyant style.
Krupa was born in Chicago, Illinois. He began playing professionally in the mid 1920s with bands in Wisconsin.
Krupa moved to New York City in 1929 and worked with the band of Red Nichols. In 1934 he joined Benny Goodman's band, where his featured drum work made him a national celebrity. In 1938 he left Goodman to lead his own band, which he did until 1943. After some months back with Goodman and then with Tommy Dorsey he started a new big band-- one of the largest dance bands of the era, sometimes containing up to 40 musicians. He gradually cut down the size of the band in the late 1940s, and from 1951 on led a trio or quartet. He appeared regularly with the Jazz At the Philharmonic shows.
Krupa largely went into retirement in the late 1960s, although occasionally played in public until shortly before his death by leukemia. Gene Krupa died in Yonkers, New York.
Many consider Krupa to be the most influential drummer of the 20th century, a claim likely to remain controversial. Considering that this period saw the development of the drum kit, this would arguably make him the most influential kit drummer ever.
Krupa's main influence began in the 1930s with his collaboration with the Slingerland drum company, but he had already made history in 1927 as the first kit drummer ever to record using a bass drum pedal. His drum method was published in 1938 and immediately became the standard text.
His influence eventually standardized the combination of 8x12" and 9x13" hanging toms mounted on the bass drum, and he developed and popularised many of the cymbal techniques that became standards. His 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. Later innovations included the floor tom and toms with tunable bottom heads. At first he placed this between his two bass drums, another technique he was pioneering at the time, before moving it to its now standard position.
Besides changing jazz drumming forever, Krupa was cited as an influence by 1960s rock drummers such as Keith Moon of The Who and Paul Whaley of Blue Cheer. The British techno-rock group Apollo 440 had a hit with "Krupa" which featured the sampled phrase; "Gene Krupa's 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 1990's dance track, blending Gene's famed musical idioms with a modern song using samples and synthesised basslines.
Last updated: 05-13-2005 07:56:04