by Frederick D. Fairchild
(b. January 15, 1909; d. October 17, 1973)
Eugene Burtram Krupa was born in Chicago in 1909. Drumming since the age of 12, he joined a grouop of young musicians called the Frivolians, working summer jobs in Wisconsin. At sixteen he enered St. Joseph's College to study for the priesthood, but he quit after one year to become a drummer. He joined a group of musicians known as the "Austin High School Gang" which included Benny Goodman, Eddie Condon, Bud Freeman, and Jimmy McPartland, among others. He became associated with the "Chicago Style" of music during the 1920's, and in 1927 he made his first recording with the McKenzie-Condon Chicagoans. During the eight years that followed this session, Mr. Krupa played in Chicago and New York with the bands of Red Nichols, Mal Hallet, Irvin Anderson, Russ Columbo and Buddy Rogers. In 1935, he began his association with Benny Goodman, quickly achieving fame for his solo work on "Sing, Sing, Sing" at the famous Carnegie Hall Concerts in 1937. In 1938 he left Goodman to form his own band, surrounding himself with sidemen like Charlie Ventura, Roy Eldridge, and Gerry Mulligan.
In 1944, he was voted America's outstanding drummer. He toured with Tommy Dorsey and then formed a new big band of his own. The band worked until 1951 when Krupa began three years of touring with the Jazz at the Philharmonic troupe. He later went on to lead trios and small combos, and his "Drum Battles" with Buddy Rich are now legendary. Sal Mineo starred as Krupa in a Hollywood movie The Gene Krupa Story. He became a favorite performer in movies and on television.
As a teacher, he inspired thousands of drummers through clinics, workshops, and through the school he and Cozy Cole operated in New York.
Mr. Krupa announced his retirement in 1967, but three years later he went back to work, making appearances with the original Benny Goodman Quartet. His last public appearance was at Saratoga Springs, New York