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 Gene Krupa

Gene Krupa

Original Name Eugene Bertram
Chicago, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Death 16 Oct 1973 (aged 64)
Yonkers, Westchester County, New York, USA
Burial Calumet City, Cook County, Illinois, USA
Plot Immaculata, Block A, lot 22
Memorial ID 1526 · View Source
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Band Leader, Drummer. He was considered to be the first drum "soloist" by his introduction of extended interludes into jazz renditions which brought the drum to the forefront in music. He was born Eugene Bertram Krupa in Chicago, the youngest of Slovak immigrants Bartley and Ann Krupa's nine children. The death of Bartley left Ann with the burden of supporting the entire family by working as a milliner designing, making and trimming women's hats. All of the children found employment to help their mother. Gene, age eleven, worked as a chore boy for the Brown Music Company a store located on Chicago's South Side which led to his future as a drummer. He took a little of his wages to buy a musical instrument. The cheapest available were the drums. His education was garnished from the Catholic school system in Chicago. In deference to his religious mother, he enrolled at St. Joseph's College, a seminary prep school in Rensselaer, Indiana, with the intention of a vocation in the priesthood but washed out. The musically inclined Eugene was proficient at playing the sax while still in grammar school but joined his first band "The Frivolians" as a drummer. Upon entering high school, he became associated with the "Austin High Gang" a group of musicians which led to percussion studies with famous drummer Roy Knapp and joined the musicians union which led to performances with various Chicago commercial bands. Gene moved to New York in 1929 and was recruited by Red Nichols. He along with Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller, performed in the pit band of the new George Gershwin play "Strike Up The Band." Krupa joined Russ Columbo's band which let to his joining Benny Goodman's band with a promise that it would be a real jazz band. He soon became discouraged as the band was relegated to playing dance music. Gene departed in 1938 forming his own orchestra which was an instant success upon opening at the Marine Ballroom on the Steel Pier in Atlantic City. During the bands tenure, he authored his own book titled, The Gene Krupa Drum Method." He appeared in several motion pictures including "Some Like it Hot" and "Beat the Band." The group took a hit when Krupa was charged with possession of marijuana and contributing to the delinquency of a minor. He was sentenced to 90 days, of which 84 were served. This incident triggered the demise of the band. Released from custody, Gene briefly joined up with Benny Goodman and Tommy Dorsey before reforming his own band. The revised band remained intact until 1950 long after the era of the Big Band was history. By the late fifties, Krupa was prompted to slow down due to increasing back problems and in 1960, a heart attack forced him into a long period of recuperation, reemerging to perform with the Goodman Quartet throughout the US and abroad. His health became a problem again and he retired for good in 1967. Gene's final public performance was with a reunion of the old Goodman Quartet in August 1973 giving a greatly diminished performance followed by his death in October at his home in Yonkers. Although he had been under treatment for leukemia for several years, the official cause of death was heart failure. The most charismatic and innovative drum legend of the Swing Era was gone at age 64 but remembered at a requiem mass held at St. Denis Roman Catholic Church in Yonkers. Goodman, Freeman and McPartland gathered to pay their last respects. His body was transferred back to Chicago with burial in the family plot at Holy Cross Cemetery, Calumet City. Legacy...Gene Krupa will forever be known as the man who made drums a solo instrument. He single-handedly made the Slingerland Drum Company a success and inspired thousands to become drummers. His level of showmanship has never been equaled. His name is forever linked and synonymous with the drum. He convinced H.H. Slingerland of Slingerland Drums, to make tuneable tom-toms which gave one the ability to change the sound. The new drum design was introduced in 1936 named "Separate Tension Tunable Tom-Toms." He is considered "The Pioneer of the Modern Drum Set" and the company even today sells the a Gene Krupa Set with his signature plate mounted on the bass drum. Gene was a loyal endorser of Slingerland Drums until his death. He was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame in 1983. In 1959, actor Sal Mineo portrayed Gene in the motion picture "The Gene Krupa Story." The film was very loose in the facts of Gene's career but did feature an excellent soundtrack recorded by Krupa himself.

Bio by: Donald Greyfield

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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 1 Jan 2001
  • Find A Grave Memorial 1526
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Gene Krupa (15 Jan 1909–16 Oct 1973), Find A Grave Memorial no. 1526, citing Holy Cross Cemetery and Mausoleums, Calumet City, Cook County, Illinois, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .