It is a great honor to present this. The drumming world has, once again, been lucky to have two men dedicated to preserving this history and keeping it safe. Charlie Watts and Don McAulay have done it again! This document is actually a 27 page excerpt from my book GK and has been edited down somewhat. It is the result of my research and was compiled to also serve as an historical adjunct to the incredible collection that they have acquired. There is really no measure of the collection’s value but, suffice it to say, it is monumental at the very least! My heartfelt thanks to both men for allowing me to be involved… and many thanks to Bart of drumhistory podcast for giving me the opportunity to spread the word about this incredible thing. Here are the pages from GK.
As the book grows (perhaps “evolves” is a better word), it has become clear to this author that writing a ‘technical’ history like this is like trying to build a 5000 square foot house with bamboo, pipe cleaners, and aluminum foil. And all of that, set on a foundation of mostly sand with a few boulders randomly placed (but well hidden…).
If lucky enough to find one of those bits of historical ‘bedrock’, one can just pile all manner of stuff on there and hope it doesn’t just topple over. Of course, if it does, it can be rebuilt. One of the “tricky” parts is when one wants to tie in other additions to the structure in a way that they will be able to support themselves.
Perhaps the closest comparable category is “Cold Case Forensics” or, in other words, Arthur Conan Doyle’s “Sherlock Holmes”, backwards. With the exception (in jazz history anyway) of Russ Connor’s amazing work with Benny Goodman’s history (because he WAS THERE!) there has never been a comprehensive ‘study’ of any other jazz musician from the standpoint of what he used to achieve what he sounded like. Of course, Ricky Riccardi can tell you which horns Louis Armstrong used/had but who, other than he and a few trumpet/cornet players, could tell you the complete ‘lineage’ of Armstrong’s horns from the Waif’s Home to his last days in New York? Accurately? With undisputed documentation?
This author believes that, like Louis’ legacy, Gene’s was equally as important and deserves as much dedication. Hence, it was time to break out the bamboo and foil!! Which was done nearly a decade ago.
Luckily, a fair amount of “bedrock” was immediately available to ‘build’ on (this author’s musical idol since the beginning) and it was simply a matter of where to put stuff in the book, right? No. Not so simple…
One advantage was, like Gene’s playing, his choice of equipment was an equally important focus. They were solidly intertwined throughout his entire career. Like Armstrong’s name being immediately synonymous with jazz trumpet, Gene Krupa is not only synonymous with the word “drums” but also with the brand, “Slingerland”. No other name in jazz has had this. Even Louis would not use the same make of horn throughout his life.
One would assume that this fact would make the whole process easier. Only partially. Gene was a “known” jazz drummer from 1927 until 1973. Of that whole period, the “documented” history of an association with the Slingerland Banjo and Drum Company only begins ca. 1935. What was Gene using before joining Benny Goodman? Welcome Mr. author, to the first (and possibly deepest) SAND pit! A few dubious anecdotes from his peers. A single photo of him standing in front of someone else’ bandstand and you have the full extent of historical “documentation” of Gene’s career/equipment beginnings. Even the anecdote about him being the first to use a bass drum in a recording studio was proven to be wrong.
So, this author continues to dig for the oldest “bedrock” to build on. Somewhere out there, in some attic, old trap case or bookshelf is that collection of snapshots of Gene’s set in 1928. Maybe that dusty photo album of old Uncle Berfward’s time playing that Wisconsin resort where Gene’s drums were set up.
Below is page 8 of “GK”. It is clearly lacking in the “image” department…
…and for the (so far) final bit of grumping, to finish out a year many will be happy to forget, herein is Exhibit 2… 60’s Bogus-Exhibit 2
It’s important to stress that there are indeed many known GENUINE and attributable Gene Krupa items out there and, hopefully, many more to be found. My book covers those things that have crossed my ‘path’ and/or have been reported and are, of course, verifiable. These things cover the entire span of Gene’s spectacular career. From a 1936 tom tom to snare drums that still stood in his Yonkers basement as late as 1972.
The main focus is on what was Gene’s especially. Yes, at times he was known to have used things once or twice but they were not HIS and the whole issue of solid provenance gets ridiculously ‘dodgy’. The ‘real’ things are treasures ALL! Mostly, because they are proven to truly be what they are said to be.
I would also add that, if you are someone who believes you possess something of Gene’s but are nervous about seeming to be foolish by making it public, I can only suggest that, if it’s ‘real’, history is best served by the minute details within the broadest picture one can paint of it. Each true article gets added to the color palette, thus adding to the whole image. All are pieces of a beautiful work of historical “art”…It should be shared.
On the other hand, if you are one of those who hopes to profit from passing off fakes,…well, might want to re-think that…. Thanks to the able assistance of friend/great drummer Timm Biery, here are pdf versions he did, added for those who may have more ‘up-to-date’ systems than the absurdly antiquated ones this author has! 60s-bogus-exhibit-2
The last two in the “Myth Flush” series are further examples of how a scam artist can have just enough ‘knowledge’ to make it seem legit but not enough to completely disguise the fraud. To put out a bogus image/item as ‘real’ is bad enough but to then repeat the same sham again is just, well,….stupid. But then, PT Barnum said,….. 60’s Bogus-Exhibit 1 Thanks to the able assistance of friend/great drummer Timm Biery, here are pdf versions he did, added for those who may have more ‘up-to-date’ systems than the absurdly antiquated ones this author has! 60s-bogus-exhibit-1
It has always been remarkable (to me anyway) that people can accept a statement made as “fact” without bothering to question its validity. Nowhere does this seem to be more prevalent than in the wild and wooly world of vintage drums. Add a layer of pseudo credibility in the form of a ‘word salad’ of technical terminology, name dropping and just plain BS and, (ta-da!!!), a myth is born. It will often out last the truth for years and years (yeah, there are STILL flat-earth believers to this day!!)…
As the next Myth Flush article entry, herein is a glaring example of the point. Another set of absurd claims, an attempt to legitimize said claims by getting some “experts” involved in the fable and presenting it all with virtual thumbs in vests as…..fact.
Obviously, people believe what they want to but it seems better that it is based on real factual information, no?
[Addendum]…Worth noting that, since that article was written, it has been shown that Gene did have one similarly “retro-fitted” 16 floor tom. Clearly, however, not the same drum as in this bogus grouping, however. Some clear and obvious differences. Not least of which being the physical positioning of the retro-fitted #1290 leg brackets.
It has also been revealed (by one of the, seemingly, multitude of recent sellers of this stuff) that the 13″ mounted tom actually originally had completely different model lug casings on it!! Thus explaining the complete absence of interior photos…
Now, having been purchased (yet again) to another unwitting “victim”, the myth continues to march along…For those who even care about these bogus things, suffice it to say, it is not nor ever was a Gene Krupa set, regardless of how vociferously the owners (current and prior) try to say it is. The burden of proof is on them. Where is their (genuine) evidence?
I was recently asked to comment on the “authenticity” (or lack thereof) of a few pieces of drum equipment alleged to have belonged to Gene. Needless to say, my initial (dare I say, “knee-jerk”) reaction was my usual deep skepticism.
To put it simply, it’s a complicated process. Any historian faced with these tasks is up against, not only ferreting out shreds of solid, irrefutable evidence wherever possible but also fielding an array of, at times, long ingrained misconceptions, lack of logical thinking, personal bias and just plain old deliberate deception. The level of all these complications as it relates to Gene’s history has been considerable. The misinformation floating around out there has, in so many instances, long overshadowed the whole process of getting to the factual truths, thus creating a nearly impenetrable ‘wall’ of myth.
As far as I am concerned, it has become a ‘mission’ of mine to try to break down this wall whenever possible. In order to get to the right stuff, it’s essential (i think) to also jettison the wrong stuff. To that end, I start a series of posts called, “Myth Flush”. (I’ll see if I can locate an appropriate image later…..HA!) MYTH FLUSH 1:
A so-called “Gene Krupa” snare drum…. (stay tuned…)
The chronology of Gene’s equipment, by necessity, rests on the foundation of imagery. All who knew of these important details are long dead and human memory is, at best, highly falible. Photographs hardly ever lie and the only images of Gene’s pre-Goodman period are painfully scarce. In fact, were it not for booking agency publicity photos, even the images that do exist would be impossible to easily identify as specifically Gene’s (so far).
The first that show Gene and a set of drums in the same photo are even somewhat suspect. The shot of Mal Hallett and his band (including Gene) at the Steel Pier in Atlantic City do not show Gene actually seated at the set, playing them but a long line-up of the personnel in front of and at the base of the stage. It is certainly possible that the stage they stand in front of is not actually Hallett’s bandstand. There is nothing in the image itself to specifically identify it as such so it’s a bit of a “leap of faith” to assume the drum set up there in the back was Gene’s. It certainly fits the criteria as far as what components go into the set along with what Gene’s (stated) preferences were for what he thought was necessary. Couple that with his Chicago ‘roots” and influences and it becomes even more plausible.
Working with these assumptions in place, it’s clear that it’s a most basic set of the period and quite typical of any Chicago Jazz drummer’s essential array.