The Chicago Beginning
Born on January 15th, 1909, to Bartolome and Anna Krupa, Gene became the youngest son following the loss of his younger brother. The tradition in many ardently Catholic families was to give over the youngest son to the “church”. Although an obligation Gene did his best to honor for his mother (his father had passed away by the time Gene was 7 years old), going into the priesthood would lose out to a far stronger passion of being a musician. Initially, not specifically to be a drummer as, leading up to his 12th year, any instrument would have done as long as he could call himself a musician. He actually started with saxophone but was drawn very strongly to the drums instead. During his efforts at honoring his mother’s wish, his time at seminary school included musical instruction by Father Ildefonse Rapp. By the time he left school, his career had been decided and would in no way involve being a priest.
Following his chosen path, Gene would eventually (by the time he was 20 years old) find himself living more in New York than Chicago. By the time he decided to settle down there with his first wife Ethel, his career had truly exploded and he had become one of the most sought-after jazz drummers in the east and west! He was constantly “on the road” for the next forty years. Clearly, the house he had built in Yonkers became his “anchor” for the rest of his life.
10 Ritchie Drive, Yonkers
One of the things that Gene was the most proud of in his life was the beautiful home that he and his first wife Ethel had built in Yonkers in 1940-’41. So many people recall spending time in this house from the mid ’40’s to the early 1970’s and their recollections are always filled with the same warmth that Gene offered. There were even a few weddings and receptions as well. Joe Dale married Carolyn Gray there. The list of visitors (especially to the basement with its ‘Knotty Pine’ paneling) was an absolute “Who’s Who” of the jazz and drumming world that spanned the entire 33 years Gene was there. Gene loved his house.
These images of the house were all taken in the mid 1940’s. It’s just as easy to find today.
That number 10 up there next to the door was so significant. It even became a song title that Gene put together, “Number 10 Ritchie Drive”. So many drummers know that address almost as well as their own.