Written by Martin S. Nowak Saturday, 19 March 2011 13:57
Drummers had always been considered an integral part of a band, but merely time-keepers, hardly musicians, and certainly not featured performers. Then someone came along to change that. His name has become synonymous with the drums.
Eugene Bertram (Gene) Krupa was born in 1909 and raised in a working class Polish American community on Chicago's south side. The eleventh of twelve children, his grandparents were Polish immigrants. His father Bartley was a Chicago city alderman for a time and died when Gene was a young boy. His mother Anna and the children then had to take various jobs to support the family.
At age 10, Gene took a job doing chores at a music store. He took an interest in the music and spent a lot of time there listening to records. He had studied saxophone from age 6, but switched to drums. His brother bought him a drum kit at age 11. Working as a soda jerk at Wisconsin Beach, he played sax in the junior band and substituted for the drummer in the house band one day when he was only 13. In high school, he sought out the company of other young musicians and was able to play with them at dances and socials.