Wire Brush Stomp

Gene Krupa and his Orchestra

Clip from the 1939

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In this clip from the 1939 “Some Like It Hot,” starring Bob Hope, Shirley Ross, and Una Merkel; Gene Krupa and Orchestra perform the “Wire Brush Stomp.”

Eugene Bertram Krupa was born in Chicago on January 15, 1909, the youngest of nine children. His father had immigrated from Poland and his mother, also of Polish decent, was born in Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Gene’s parents were very religious and groomed him for the priesthood. He spent his grammar school days at various parochial schools and upon graduation, attended St Joseph’s College for a year, but later decided it was not for him. He studied with Sanford A. Moeller and began playing professionally in the mid 1920’s with bands in Wisconsin. He broke into the Chicago scene in 1927, when he was picked by MCA to become a member of “Thelma Terry and Her Playboys,” the first notable American Jazz band to be led by a female musician. The Playboys were the house band at The Golden Pumpkin nightclub in Chicago and also toured extensively throughout the eastern and central United States.

He made his first recordings in 1927, with a band under the leadership of banjoist Eddie Condon and Red McKenzie: along with other recordings beginning in 1924 by musicians known in the “Chicago” scene such as Bix Beiderbecke, these sides are examples of “Chicago Style” jazz. The numbers recorded at that session were: “China Boy”, “Sugar”, “Nobody’s Sweetheart” and “Liza”. The McKenzie – Condon sides are also notable for being some of the early examples of the use of a full drum kit on recordings. Krupa’s big influences during this time were Tubby Hall and Zutty Singleton. The drummer who probably had the greatest influence on Gene in this period was Baby Dodds, whose use of press rolls was highly reflected in Gene’s playing.

During the 1930’s, at Krupa’s urging, Slingerland developed tom-toms with tuneable top and bottom heads, which immediately became important elements of virtually every drummer’s set-up. Krupa developed and popularized many of the cymbal techniques that became standards. His collaboration with Armand Zildjian of the Avedis Zildjian Company developed the modern hi-hat cymbals and standardized the names and uses of the ride cymbal, the crash cymbal, the splash cymbal, the pang cymbal and the swish cymbal. One of his drum sets, a Slingerland inscribed with Benny Goodman’s and Krupa’s initials, is preserved at the Smithsonian museum in Washington, D.C.

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